Victoria runner Paul Pascoli crosses the finish line during the 2013 GoodLife Victoria marathon. This year

GoodLife marathon like Christmas for local runner

This weekend, Christmas will come early for Paul Pascoli.

This weekend, Christmas will come early for Paul Pascoli.

After nearly a year of training, Pascoli will lace up his sneakers and hit the pavement for the 37th annual GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon on Sunday.

Pascoli has eagerly been training, running three to four times a week since last September in anticipation of his first marathon — 42.2 kilometres — in two years.

But the 49-year-old Victoria resident hasn’t always been interested in running.

In 2009, Pascoli was walking instead of running. He would walk five kilometres, five to six times a week and was able to lose 40 pounds in the process.

After that, Pascoli set the bar higher, aiming to complete the TC 10 km run in under an hour — a goal he beat and also launched him into the world of marathon running.

“I was hooked after that, I just loved it . . . Typically I run three to four times a week. If I do that, it allows me to eat and not worry too much about my diet,” he said. “With running clinics people are so nice. It’s nice to belong to a team or a group. Almost all the people are really encouraging and cheer people on. It’s a nice feeling.”

Pascoli started with half marathons, participating in various clinics and running in ones in Victoria, New York and Oak Bay, though he admits when he first started running longer distances, the process was physically gruelling, his whole body hurt for the first year.

After signing up for the GoodLife half marathon in 2013, his coach talked him into training for the full, which, after several months of training, he completed in four hours and 31 minutes.

While he wanted another shot at the marathon, Pascoli was injured in 2014 and had pneumonia in 2015, which sidelined him for the past two years.

But this year, Pascoli feels he’s finally ready to cross the finish line again — a feeling he said is hard to describe.

“It’s almost like Christmas Day or like graduation day where you put in all the hard work and that’s your moment where you get the reward or the gift back,” he said, adding he hopes to complete this year’s marathon in four hours and 19 minutes.

“The people cheering is more inspiring and pushes me to the finish line. It’s not everyday that everyone is clapping for me. That only happens once a year when I run. It’s a nice feeling.”

Pascoli is one of more than 8,000 runners who will be participating in the GoodLife races this weekend.

Marathon general manager Cathy Noel said the race has become known for its camaraderie and sportsmanship.

“What I’ve heard from other participants is they can’t believe how supportive the entire community is. Whether you’re in Oak Bay, James Bay, Fairfield, there are people all along who come out of their houses and bang on pots and cheer the people on. It becomes a 42.2 kilometre cheering station,” she said, noting registration is already full for the half marathon, but there are still spaces available for the eight-kilometre run.

The route begins from downtown Victoria on Menzies Street, winding through the downtown core into James Bay and Beacon Hill Park, along Dallas Road to Gonzales Bay. It then proceeds into Fairfield, Oak Bay and Uplands before the turnaround.

For more information visit runvictoriamarathon.com.