Paul Poce, legendary Canadian running coach, dies at 98
On Monday, May 22, the Toronto and Canadian running community lost a historic 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 training with the Toronto Red Devils.
Poce went on to coach 13 Olympians, including former Canadian marathon record holder Jerome Drayton; and held the role of head athletics coach for Team Canada at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and distance coach for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and the 1976 Olympic Games 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 the record 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)
“In a testament to how good a Paul was, when I joined the TOC junior program to coach in 1975, TOC runners owned all of the senior men’s Canadian records from the 800m to the marathon. Although I was never formally coached by Paul, he was omnipresent if not physically, but in spirit. When you were in his presence, he always was there with a quick pick-you-up quip after a bad race and just as quick with the praise when a good race was run or a PB set. Thank you Paul for all you did for running and Track & Field in Canada. RIP!” – Jerry Kooymans (Canadian Masters Athletics Hall of Fame Member and Former Toronto Olympic Club coach).
posted Thursday May 25th
by Marley Dickinson