Cambrian College cross-country runners may want to revise their goals heading into the 2019 season.
Incoming coach Jeffrey Paul, you see, is unlikely to set a whole slew of limitations on his new team.
"I'm a firm believer on two points to accomplish anything in life: willpower and dedication," said the 37-year-old lifelong Sudbury and area native, who takes over from Eric Leishman at the helm of the Cambrian Golden Shield cross-country team this fall.
"If you're willing to do something, if you're motivated by any kind of goal, and you have that work-load capacity to put it to the grind, the sky is quite literally the limit."
A highly successful member of the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club in his youth, this middle of three children and father of two knows a thing or two about achieving unthinkable goals, having competed in more than fifty distance races, first as a marathoner, and more recently as a distance trail runner, with most of his courses these days measuring fifty kilometres or so.
"For me, it was all about testing limits, pushing boundaries," said Paul.
Athletic pursuits have always been part of his life. Exposed to a wide variety of sports, but focused on his efforts in the pool with coach Alex Wallingford and the SLSC, Paul veered briefly, before returning to a cardio-sport foundation.
"When I transitioned away from the pool, I moved towards the gym (weight room), but I was craving something different," he recalled. "I grabbed a pair of shoes, hit the trails and never looked back. It was literally the Forrest Gump story."
"It's amazing to look back, 15 years ago, when my attitude was - "I wonder if I can even do it" - and now flash forward to racing and medalling and standing on the podium for Ontario," he said. It's not just about the distance, for Jeffrey Paul - there is clearly an element of speed.
In fact, Paul would top out on the race circuit with half marathon events, clocking a personal best time of just over 72 minutes in Ottawa a few years back. "I think that I just knew, even after a few races, that I was really gifted, so I really wanted to push myself and see how far I could go," he said.
Yet like most runners, most notably of the long-distance variety, Jeffrey Paul runs for far more than the thrill of victory. "Running has been my solace, my journey to self-discovery," said the local man who spent almost a full year studying traditional yoga in India.
The spirituality of the run is evidenced, quite claringly, as Paul discussed his most memorable marathons. "I have two favourites," he said. "Boston - and ironically, it's not even about those things that you would normally think about the race."
"It's everything around the race - the excitement, the pandemonium, the media attention. The whole culture of Boston has this glow about it and you feel empowered. You're on a path that seems like a single car trail, and there's 28,000 or you, and everyone is just grateful to be part of that culture."
"It's one big massive celebration."
His second favourite marathon is situated less than 200 miles southwest of the race by which all others are measured.
"New York, and not just because of the numbers (48,000)," Paul explained. "It's not just things like running over the bridge and having it shake behind you, because there are so many runners, but going through the five boroughs - what a cool way to see a city."
"The whole city is shut down for us. There's fans from the start of the race, right to the finish."
If it seems like Jeffrey Paul is far more athlete than coach, then one doesn't understand the running community.
"What's been happening, the past few years, is simply that people know that running has been such a big part of my life, so I've been naturally coaching people. Runners have approached me, asking for programs, asking for advice, diet modifications, proper form and cadence."
"I enjoy making plans and programs and regimes for others. It feels amazing to give back, to pay things forward."
Paul will inherit a roster that, although limited in numbers, could be at least as interesting as most. A nationally competitive marathoner and the former coach of the team, Eric Leishman is returning for some extra schooling.
The women's team could pack an impressive one-two punch if both Mary Strain and Sydney Tarini are in the lineup. "We are quite possibly going to have a national contender, right from the start, but we're probably going to have a really big range of different capabilities," said Paul.
"The key for me is understanding where my athletes' strengths are, and then maximizer them, attacking them from a motivational standpoint, because I do bring a lot of enthusiasm to my sport."
Not to mention an attitude tha believes that anything is possible, if you simply put your mind to it.