Running coach Paul Miller recasts himself into “Iron” man

Toronto Inspires when passion and perseverance intersect.

Story shared by Lynda Chubak

Paul Miller

Paul Miller

You’d be hard-pressed to find an aspiring runner in Toronto’s High Park community that hasn’t received an encouraging nudge from neighbourhood running coach Paul Miller. After all, during the past decade or so, he has guided close to 2,000 race-completion hopefuls at the local Running Room. His training clinics are consistently packed-not only because he is a remarkably dedicated coach, but also because his own transformational story resonates.

In 2001, Paul’s comfort zone was better visualized as a sectional sofa than a patch of pavement. That was about to change. In April, an ex-girlfriend talked him into keeping her company by joining an upcoming Learn to Run clinic. Ten weeks later, after persevering with the program, in spite of running in cut-offs and cross-trainers, he and Gina crossed the 5K finish line at the Nissan Toronto Challenge in 0:36:37. Reflecting back, he recalls describing running “five whole kilometers” to a neighbour as unbelievable. That was also about to change. Read more about Paul!

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Table tennis serves up friendship

Toronto Inspires when playing a game sparks a sense of belonging.

Dina z_21bcf6b5Shared by Dina May, a recent newcomer from Russia

When you come to new country you start your realization from a new page. It’s a great chance to build your new life track. Some consider this difficult. Others dive into this opportunity headfirst.

From the beginning, I felt fear speaking with someone. It’s a common feeling among new immigrants. The fear of looking obscure vanished when I started to play table tennis. It happened during the second month of my living in Toronto. I found (what turned out to be) the best social club in my area through the internet and decided to check out the place, which is named My Table Tennis Club. When I came to the club, I saw a big space with good equipment, 12 new courts with tables, a table tennis robot and  special flooring. This club impressed me from my first view. Not only was the club good, but so was the manager, Gareth. He met me with a wide smile, and his sparkling eyes told me that he was very glad to see a new young woman in his club. He gave me a tour around the club and instructions about membership. After chatting, he told me that I should not be hesitant with my language, because there is no one who speaks English well. ”Just me”, he said kiddingly. 🙂 Gareth came to Canada a long time ago from the UK, and he knows how immigration can sometimes be difficult.

Playing Table TennisAfter giving me a tour, he offered to play a game to see my playing level. When we played, he made jokes, made funny faces, told some stories (even though he knew that I wasn’t understanding his English very well). He created a friendly atmosphere, and inspired me to come to the club every day. The main thing was, when he listened to my story with patience, sometimes correcting me, he gave me confidence in myself. Coming to the club every week has become my favorite activity.

Table Tennis TournamentAfter a short time, I started to play in tournaments. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost, but this is not so important. The important point is that I made many friends from different countries, such as Poland, India, China and so on. While communicating with them, I understood that many of them came to the Canada some time ago, and they got used to living here, speaking a non-native language and enjoying Toronto life. I thought at those moments, if they could do it, I have to too!  I am still going to the club regularly, meeting new people and extending my communication horizon. By offering this example, I am trying to say, if you want to live in this country you should join it. You should be a part of it. Just be free, communicate, play, dance, dream, enjoy life and everything will come to you some day.

Inspirational Takeaway: Dive into your new community.