POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Like many first-time marathoners, Poughkeepsie native Laura Betros slammed into “the wall” near the 20-mile mark at last year’s TCS New York City Marathon.
A day later, the Arlington High grad knew she needed to return to the race. On Sunday, the 25-year-old will step on the starting line in Staten Island with better fitness, a better game plan and the resolve to take down the late-race barrier that can crush the will of even the most resolute runner.
“When I crossed the finish line, I was in such pain,’’ said Betros, who finished in a respectable 4 hours, 32 minutes and 57 seconds. “I remember thinking just get me water. That’s all I wanted. Once I got a bit more comfortable, I felt good and was happy with the results. I knew the day after that I needed to go back though.”
Betros ran for a Connecticut cancer charity last year, and this year is running for Catholic Charities of New York. The money Betros raises will go to Astor Services for Children & Families of Rhinebeck, a community-based nonprofit that provides children’s mental health services, child welfare services, and early-childhood development programs. The agency serves children and families in the Mid-Hudson Valley and the Bronx.
“I think they do incredible work in the community,’’ Betros said. “My father is a member of their organization so he sees firsthand the activities that they do and I have been lucky to be part of some. I knew the good work that my fundraising was going towards.”
Betros has raised more than $3,400 for the agency. Readers can make a donation by visiting her online fundraising page. Click here to visit the page.
“I want to be able to help a cause that I know is directly impacting people’s lives,’’ Betros said on her fundraising page. “Given that Astor Services is in my home community where I see many struggling, I want to contribute in bringing positivity to their lives and to the community as a whole.”
Betros started running late during her college days at Northeastern University in Boston. A former gymnast and cheerleader, she started slowly and built up to running half marathons three years ago.
“I kept challenging myself to see how far I could go,’’ Laura said. “In terms of exercising, running is something that just worked for me. I felt I could do a half marathon, and at that point it became a little addictive. Then I saw other people doing marathons, and I thought maybe I could do that too and why not do it in New York City, the best city in the world.”
Her previous sports didn't lend any specific skills to running, but she did bring with her an athlete’s mental focus. “A lot of it is mental strength,’’ Betros said. “Anyone can run, but it takes time to get used to. The mentality of pushing through pain and pushing just a little bit more are definitely things I learned from other sports.”
For about 20 miles in last year’s race, Betros loved everything about the world’s largest marathon. “It was exciting interacting with people on the sidewalks,’’ Laura said. “Seeing people cheering in all the boroughs was amazing. It helped push me through some of the difficult areas. My favorite is when people reach out and give you a high five. You can just feed off the energy.”
Betros said she saw her family around the eighth mile, and again around 10 miles later. It briefly rejuvenated her flagging spirits. A few miles later, she slowed down considerably. “It was a big struggle getting to the Bronx (the 20-mile mark),’’ Betros said. “I felt like I needed to slow down and hang on. As I was going down 5th Avenue, I saw the mile signs and got running again. I felt relieved and tried running for the rest of the way once I got to Central Park.”
This year, Betros believes she trained smarter, developed a better game plan and knows fatigue will find her late in the race. This time, she’s better prepared physically, and mentally.
“In training I really focused on staying at a slightly slower pace during my long runs,’’ she said. “I didn’t do as much core and cross training last year, so wanted to make sure there was more time for it.”
The best part, Betros said, is finishing the race and remembering the cause for which she is running.
“It’s a very proud moment,’’ she said. “I’m glad I can support a cause that helps so many people in the Hudson Valley.”
Click here to visit Betros’ fundraising page.