For those of you who may be fed up with all the Titanic publicity, don’t read any more of this.
Back in 1912 my late uncle Andy Keane was one of a large family living on a small farm outside Athenry. For obvious reasons he decided to emigrate to America but, unfortunately, he decided to travel on the ship Titanic and, of course, the rest is history, as he and many more went to their watery graves.
As the last few weeks has been the 100th anniversary of the tragedy, a lot of events are taking place in Belfast, one of which is the Titanic 10K on last Sunday (22 April), which I decided to take part in, but before that there was the small event of a hurling match between Galway and Dublin fixed for Portlaoise Saturday at 4pm.
I travelled to this game on the Galway supporters’ bus and after we had sorted out the Dubs at the second time of asking after which I travelled to the local railway station to catch the train to Dublin. While waiting there, I got chatting to a lovely man from Moynalty, Co. Meath who told me he spends all his spare time going to GAA games. In Dublin I stayed overnight with my brother-in-law, MV McDonagh, who is a regular at the FOA race every year.
The following morning it was up early to catch the bus to Belfast and after arriving I took a meander down through the city and came upon City Hall in Donegal Square, where they have a huge Titanic display, with large billboard size pictures and a very tastefully-done sign with all the names of the people who lost their lives in alphabetic order. As I scrolled down to the K's, I found just two Keanes, Andrew and Daniel.
When I entered this race on-line, I got a reply from a girl called Jenni Robinson (race director) stating they very limited changing/luggage facilities and come prepared for running. I replied back to her about my last time running a couple of marathons in Belfast in the mid-1980s, which at that time were sponsored by Guinness, with a free no-limits bar afterwards and I still recall people leaving Belfast walking rather unsteady and not due entirely to running 26 miles.
As my bag was now becoming a bit heavy to carry, I went to the visitor centre, which I was told took in luggage and on arriving there found the place locked up. Upon asking two men standing there, they told me they were staff the said they would take in my bag but I had to be back at 3:45 PM and pay three pounds. (Race was starting at 2 15 and it was on the other side of the city)
In Belfast they are still fussy about bags and they don’t take them at railway/bus stations. I thought about having a bad race or getting lost, which might result in me sleeping on a park bench for the night, as all my possessions were in the bag. While passing by a line of open-top sightseeing buses, one of the drivers upon spotting my Galway rain jacket, hopped out to inquire about the hurling game the evening before. He then offered to drop me to the race start but I declined saying if I couldn't walk a mile, there was no point trying to run six point two plus.
After collecting my race pack, which had a special Belfast Telegraph Titanic newspaper, t-shirt, bars etc, the number bib had your name on it and my number was 19. I still had an hour to spare and I wandered down to the newly-built Titanic Quarter, which was very busy. I got chatting with a staff member who gave lots of advice on how to go there on another day.
Time for the race and, as usual, everyone seemed to pass me out on the first mile or two. At 3K I was under 15 mins. I was slightly over 25 mins at 5K but on the second half I must have hit a few icebergs as I felt a 'sinking' feeling, finishing in 51:47, which in Titanic language would be described as 'steerage' rather than 'first class', although I think it got me second place on my category. I'm still trying to break 50 min for the first time in a long time.
I had to hurry back to collect my bag which I did with about 10 minutes to spare, to be met by the same man, and on handing it over said, 'No charge, Mr. Keane, and have a safe journey home!' Nice to know there are still nice people around. I got the bus back to Dublin and at Heuston station, with a bit of time to spare after having a light meal. I ordered a pint of Guinness. The barman with the empty glass in his hand looked at me and unsure of my drinking capabilities said, 'I'll be closing the bar in 15 mins.' I replied, 'In 15 mins I'd easily put a few of them away.'
I had to travel out towards Phoenix Park to get a Sunday paper and while waiting for my change, the assistant said, 'For security reasons, your change will come out the chute,’ and yes it did, all 30 cents of it came out of a gadget which looked like a slot machine.
It’s a pity they didn't have more of that safety and security 100 years ago in the mid-Atlantic.