On Monday, the Toronto and Canadian running community lost a legendary coach with the passing of Paul Poce. In 1954, Poce founded the well-known Toronto Olympic Club, which still stands as the city’s oldest running club.
Born in Toronto in 1924, Poce began running after participating in boxing during his teens, believing that running was a better sport. His athletic career started under legendary coach Lloyd Percival, who coached him while he was training with the Toronto Red Devils.
Poce went on to coach 13 Olympians, including former Canadian marathon record holder Jerome Drayton; he was head athletics coach for Team Canada at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and distance coach in 1972 (in Munich) and 1976 (in Montreal).
Under Poce, Drayton set a Canadian marathon record of 2:10:09 in 1975, which stood for over 40 years until Cam Levins broke it in 2018. He also set a world record in the 1970s in the 10-mile race and was sixth in the marathon at the 1976 Olympics. Before Drayton’s accolades, Poce recruited him into distance running and the Toronto Olympic Club.
Poce coached with Toronto Olympic Club into his 90s and was inducted into the Canadian Road Runners Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 2010.
“Poce had a long and full life, living into his late nineties, and was coaching and mentoring right up until the end. I’m sure many will agree that he was universally respected and admired within our Canadian running community and beyond. He was loved by so many, as he gave so much to everyone within his scope of influence.” –Harvey Mitro (sub-four-minute miler, former national team runner and author)
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Paul Poce, not only a former coach of mine, but also a true legend in the world of coaching. His remarkable 60-year tenure with the Toronto Olympic Club is a testament to his unwavering dedication and passion for the sport. I have no doubt that his impact will endure through the countless athletes whose lives he has influenced, both on and off the field of play. Paul’s commitment to his craft, along with his ability to inspire and mentor athletes, will forever be remembered. He was a truly exceptional coach and an extraordinary individual. His legacy will continue to shine brightly, serving as a guiding light for generations to come.” –Paul Osland (Athletics Ontario CEO, former national team member and Olympian)
“I had the great pleasure of being coached by Paul Poce towards the end of my senior track career and at the start of my masters running. Paul was a wonderful coach. I always felt deeply cared for by Paul and with his consistently positive approach, the environment he created allowed me to test my limits in training and racing. We had such a good time! I think he and Paul Osland, my training partner throughout, are the reasons I was able to enjoy high-level track into my late thirties and to bridge into masters running which I have appreciated so much, to this day.” –Michael Sherar (Canadian masters record holder, president of Royal City Athletics Club and Athletics Canada board member)
“Paul was responsible for my successes in Athletics, particularly in the Marathon. He was not only my coach but also became a personal and valued friend. As a Mimico High School rookie track athlete, I had no idea what were proper training methods for distance running races. I jogged about 2 miles two or three times a week. After joining Toronto Olympic Cub in 1963, at the invitation of a TOC scout, my first workout from Paul was to run eight miles with the rest of the Club’s seasoned runners. I was shocked and was sure I could not complete it and be withdrawn from the Club’s membership. Luckily it was a regular Sunday “social run” and was not competitive. I was happy to finish the eight-mile test and informed my mother that I planned to become a distance runner and hope to eventually represent Canada at the Olympics. However, my Russian mother was apprehensive about my becoming a distance runner and marathoner. I invited Paul to meet my mother to assure her I would not suffer physical harm from running and eventually competing in Marathons under his guidance. The rest as they say is history! Many Thanks to Paul Poce!”–Jerome Drayton (Former Canadian marathon record holder, Boston marathon champion and Olympian)