The winner of the first Co-operation Ireland Maracycle has spoken about how his love for cycling helped him overcome the pain of losing his brother two years after his success in 1984.
Brendan ‘Bo' Graham (49) was first past the finishing line 26 years ago after cycling 200 miles from Belfast to Dublin and back.
His older brother Mark also made the journey which was launched by the peace building organisation— known then as Co-operation North—and was there to help celebrate Brendan’s achievement.
“The memories have faded a bit but what I do remember was that it was a great day, a great event,” Brendan said.
The brothers were among 1,200 cyclists who were involved in the debut sporting event that July.
“The atmosphere was brilliant and my brother was there to share it,” he said. “There was a lot of publicity leading up to it. It was a good thing, because it was promoting co-operation between north and south and it was about better relations.
“I remember coming towards the outskirts of Lisburn, a few of us broke away, and eventually I came into my own.
“There were photos taken, which I still have on my wall of me and my brother. It has pride of place in my house.”
The picture, Brendan explains, has the special place as within two years the Belfast man, was left devastated after Mark died in November 1986.
“He was killed going to a cycle race in a car crash,” he said. “I was actually on my way to the same race and was diverted because of the accident. I had no idea that Mark was involved, or had died.
“It was before mobile phones so I went on and raced and only found out afterwards. He was 27 when he died, married and had a daughter.
“It was a very tough time, it took me a while to get back on the bike. But I did manage to and well I haven't stopped.”
And Brendan said he looks back on the first Maracycle with fond memories.
“We thought it was a great idea. You cycled to Dublin took your gear, stayed in digs and then next morning you came back again. You had a chance to meet other cyclists and make a few new mates.”
It ran for 15 consecutive years until 1998, when it was replaced with BorderTrek and Into the East.
And the two-day 200-mile cycling extravanganza — supported by the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Independent—takes place again on June 26/27.
“It was a great experience for me all those years ago and it’s great to hear the Maracycle is back.”