Peter Bellino, parishioner at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Schenectady, is running 50-miles to raise $5,000 for the Schenectady City Mission. (Provided photos)
Peter Bellino, parishioner at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Schenectady, is running 50-miles to raise $5,000 for the Schenectady City Mission. (Provided photos)
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Peter Bellino never thought he would become an athlete, let alone a runner.

“I have no athletic ability,” he laughed. “But I’m stubborn and I can keep moving my legs forward!”

A parishioner at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Schenectady, Bellino grew up playing the trumpet, and turned his life-long love for music into a career.

Now, after years of sharpening his craft as an endurance athlete, Bellino is turning his love for running into an opportunity to help those in need.
In his next long-distance race, Bellino, 55, is raising awareness and money for the City Mission of Schenectady through his “Miles for the Mission” fundraiser. Bellino will be running in the Virgil Crest Ultra Marathon — a 50-mile race through the hills and valleys of Virgil — on Sept. 11. He hopes to raise $5,000 for the City Mission and draw attention to the organization’s efforts for those in need.

“I feel a lot of empathy for people who have gone through hard times,” Bellino said. “COVID has taught us what it’s like to go on unemployment, and I’ve seen addiction in my family and what it does to people. (The Mission) deals with those things. People who end up there get help… and it’s an incredible thing.”

Bellino, who tries to run an ultra-marathon every year, started thinking about how his running could benefit the Mission. “I thought of the ‘Miles for the Mission’ (slogan) in my head,” he said, and loved the slogan so much that he decided to — quite literally — run with the idea.

“I thought let me just dive into this and see what happens,” he said. “I called the Mission and I said, ‘I want to raise money for you guys, I want to raise $5,000.’ And it’s an insane amount. Maybe I’ll get $50, maybe I’ll get $500, but you gotta dream big to reach big.”

Bellino reached out to Fleet Feet in Albany and the Albany Running Exchange group, who both agreed to help sponsor “Miles for the Mission.”

Born and raised in Buffalo, Bellino is one of 11 children with five brothers and five sisters. And a strong Catholic faith was constant in Bellino’s childhood: “We were the first ones in church,” Bellino said. “We always sat in the front pew, took up the whole pew with all the kids. We were there 20 minutes early.”

It’s something that stayed with him through the years. After taking a break from the faith, Bellino started turning back to it later in life: “I always had Catholic faith… There’s nothing like it, it’s just a beautiful way of life. That gift of reconciliation is incredible.”

After graduating high school, Bellino escaped the cold and headed to the University of Miami to study jazz trumpet. It was the first step in what would become a fruitful career as a musician: Bellino joined Union College as an adjunct instructor of trumpet in 2011 and is also the regional manager/music director for the Paul Effman Music Service since 2000; those are just a few of the many hats he dons.

While music was always a part of his life, Bellino didn’t get into running until the fall of 2000 while living in Queens with his wife, Sunitha, and their son, Anthony. Bellino turned on the television to see the New York City Marathon taking place. Inspired by the runners’ determination, Bellino decided to give the sport a try.

In 2005, his family moved to Albany. A few years later Bellino joined the Albany Running Exchange, a weekly running group that meets on Thursday nights. Eight years ago, Bellino started getting into “ultra” races, a category for any race longer than a typical marathon of 26 miles.

Now, he’s looking forward to bringing “Miles for the Mission” to life: “I’m trying to do something outside of myself for someone else, but hopefully all will go well,” Bellino said. “It’s just become such an important part of my life, running. It really connects the physical, spiritual, emotional (levels). It’s a very deep experience for me.

“I think being a runner has helped me be a better person. It’s helped me set goals and achieve goals and believe in myself. It’s just an amazing experience, and I’m grateful that it all happened, and it was by the grace of God.”

For more information or to donate to “Miles for the Mission.” visit: https://citymission.com/miles-for-the-mission.