Canada’s Fastest Prime Minister
He was Prime Minister for a brief period in 1984, but before John Turner took the reins of Parliament, he was the king of the track. In the late 1940s, Turner was one of the country’s top sprinters – he set the Canadian record in the 100-yard dash when he ran 9.8 seconds at a meet in 1947.
Turner was a track star while studying at the University of British Columbia, dominating the 100- and 200-yard events, and leading his team to a championship. He qualified for the 1948 London Olympics, but a car accident kept him from competing. A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Turner went on to be teammates with Roger Bannister, the first runner to break four minutes in the mile. He reflected on his athletic career in a recent interview with Canadian Running.
Canadian Running: What did your running teach you about politics and life?
John Turner: I think competitive running teaches you that you either win or you lose, and then you try to do better next time.
CR: How fast do you think you could have run if the accident had not cut your running career short?
JT: My best time was 9.6. I was an amateur, and in those days we only trained an hour and half a day. When I ran, I took on every race on its merits and tried to beat whomever I ran against. In May 1948, I ran my best race in Los Angeles, set my personal best, up against some strong competition in a race where the world record was broken by (American) Mel Patton.
CR: Many people now run to stay fit and many run marathons, did you ever run longer distances or run for exercise?
JT: I used to run the 400m and 440-yard and sometimes the 880-yard and did some cross country after university in the early years. After I was in my 30s I didn’t really keep it up.
CR: The world record for the marathon for men over 70 is held by a Canadian (Ed Whitlock). What do you think of more and more Canadians and older Canadians running?
JT: It’s a smart thing to do, many overdo it. I’m proud to see so many Canadians out running and doing distance running.
John Turner’s Running Highlights
1947 Canadian Junior Champion 100 and 200 yards
1947 Fastest Canadian 100 yards 9.8
1947 Canadian Champion 200 yards 23.1
1947 Fastest Canadian 200 yards 22.8
1948 Fastest Canadian 100 yards 9.8
1948 Fastest Canadian 200 yards 21.8
1948 Personal Best 100 yards 9.6
1949 Fastest Canadian 100 yards 9.8