A long time ago in a land far, far away
A parody of the Star Wars opening perhaps, but it is fitting for an introduction to my father’s athletic career. His name was Ernest Leslie Page, born in Lambeth, London 1910. His talent for running firstly showed whilst he was still at school, he joined the Blackheath Harriers where he received coaching and represented them in inter club and county meets before being selected to run internationally for his country. He won many events, finishing second in the 1930 Empire Games; but the pinnacle of his career was being selected to run for his country in the 1932 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, USA. He told me that he always considered it an honour to represent his country, and that it was the taking part that counted not the winning or losing.
His was in an era before starting blocks and spikes; and drug testing was unheard of. It was also an age when athletes had to train in their spare time, having to find work to support themselves, but at the same time allowing them the freedom to compete in competitions when they were selected. The most understanding occupations were in the Armed Forces or the Police. My father chose the latter and ran in many competitions representing the Police Force. There was a newspaper article once that told of an infamous London cat-burglar making his getaway, my father saw him and gave chase. The burglar thought he could easily outrun a ‘copper’ and didn’t anticipate the speed of an international sprinter fast on his heels, he was caught red-handed and brought to justice. As his career grew his horizons expanded and his focus was on bigger events like the A.A.A. championships, internationals all over the world, the Empire games and the peak being the Olympic Games. The two events that my father specialised in were the 100 yards / meters and the 4 x 100 yards/ meter relay. He began in his career running the 100 yards, his best time being 9.45 sec., by the 1932 Olympics the distance had increased to 100 meters around 9 yards further which he ran in 10.9 sec. The British relay team in Los Angeles consisting of Finlay, Fuller, Engelhart and Page came 6th in the final in a close finish with the Japanese, Canadians and Italians who were all within 0.2 of a second of each other. My father loved the sport and when he retired to Torquay in 1957 he became involved with the Torquay Athletic Club where he coached young athletes and gave them the benefit of his experience. He also helped organise the annual Police Sports meeting held at the Rugby Ground, to which he was able to attract many top athletes of the day.
One thing that he always felt was most important, as I trained with others in relay races, was to pass the baton correctly. We had to judge our timing and not run beyond the mark for the change-over, the passing of the baton had to be clean and not fumbled which may result in dropping the baton. So many relay races, he said, had been lost through this rather than the speed of the runners. It’s often the same in life; we need to work together as a team and help each other to achieve the goal.