Person to Watch
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 23:01
At nearly every hour of the day, at least one Boston College student can be spotted jogging around the Reservoir. Boston Public School teacher Liz Byron, BC ’06, may have graduated, but will keep the athletic spirit of BC alive as she runs the 155-mile Marathon de Sable (Marathon of the Sands) in April 2013 in an effort to raise $50,000 for laptops for her students.
The ultra-marathon is a six-day race across the harsh terrain of the Sahara Desert. The equivalent of six marathons, the race is grueling to say the least. Runners must carry all supplies and food on their backs—totaling nearly 25 pounds—as they race in temperatures that regularly rise to 120 degrees by midday.
Byron, however, is not new to the competitive world of sports. She has previously competed in traditional marathons and an Ironman triathlon. During her undergrad years, she was an All-American Swimmer on the BC swim team. “Swimming made me more disciplined, it extends your pain threshold, and instilled in me an appreciation of competition. I think about swimming, my coaches, and teammates while running— they’ve all had a very positive influence on me,” Byron said.
It is the discipline learned in the pool that enables Byron to train rigorously for the competition, which she found by typing “toughest running race on Earth” into Google. “Simply put, I run a lot,” Byron explained. “I typically run between 40 and 120 miles a week.”
As if Byron’s passion for her students at Gardner Pilot Academy, where 92 percent of students live at or below the poverty line, wasn’t evident enough by her commitment to run through the Sahara Desert, when asked a simple question of what she wished more people realized about her motivation for running the race, she responded passionately, “Technology and access to the internet is a fundamental staple for students in 2013. How many times a day do you use a computer? Don’t low-income middle school students deserve the same? Yet, sometimes I get responses that technology isn’t as important as other causes. If we are to end the achievement gap and close the cycle of poverty we have to provide our highest need students with an exemplary education. Then these students can and will be more successful adults and more likely to be productive members of society.”
In a school announcement, Gardner Pilot Academy School principal Erica Herman stated, “[Liz Byron] is incredibly dedicated, innovative, and tireless on behalf of our students and families. Her willingness to undertake this tremendous endurance challenge speaks volumes about both her physical strength and the strength of her character.”
Covering all transportation costs to the race and the entrance fee herself, Byron is proud to acknowledge that all donations, which are tax deductible, go towards purchasing laptops for her students. As of Jan. 27, Byron had raised $19,091 of her goal of $50,000. To make a donation to support local students or to receive updates about Byron’s progress, supporters may visit runforlaptops.org. n