Special education teacher Liz Byron, originally from Dallas, is giving new meaning to “going the extra mile” to support her students.
This spring, Byron will run 155 miles through the Sahara Desert to raise $50,000 for the urban public school where she teaches.
Byron has qualified to run in Marathon de Sables (“Marathon of the Sands”), a six-day, 155-mile self-supported “ultra-marathon” – the equivalent of six consecutive marathons – considered the toughest foot race on the planet.
She is running to raise funds to buy a classroom set of laptop computers for her students at Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA), a public school in Boston, MA where she works as a learning specialist in GPA’s new sixth grade, as the former elementary school begins expansion of a K-8 school.
Byron, 28, was raised in Dallas and now lives in Allston, MA. She is a graduate of Bishop Hoban High School where she competed for the Argents in swimming, volleyball, cross-country, track and javelin while also participating in an indoor soccer league.
She is a 15-time High School All-American and Academic-All American, a Pennsylvania high school state champion, a five-time state runner-up and has won seven other state medals.
She was named All-State 16 times and is a 16-time high school district champion, making her the most decorated high school district athlete of all time in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
While in high school, she broke or reset more than 75 team and area pool records.
She was named Scholar-Athlete of her graduating class, was captain of the swim team for two years and finished her high school career undefeated in the dual meet season.
A former member of the Bloomsburg Area YMCA, she is a two-time YMCA national champion, runner-up and has placed in the top 16 at YMCA Nationals numerous times.
Her parents, Tom and Joan Byron, live in Dallas.
Byron began teaching full-time in 2008. She earned her undergraduate degree from Boston College where she was a four-year Division 1 All-American swimmer and master’s degrees from Harvard Graduate School of Education and Lesley University.
She has competed in numerous other endurance challenges, including six marathons, an Ironman triathlon and several other running, biking and swimming events.
The race begins in southern Morocco on April 5. Competitors must carry all personal belongings and food for the entire event in their backpacks, running across sand dunes and rocky terrain.
Event organizers provide only water and tents. Even in early April, midday temperatures in the Sahara can reach 120º F. Only 50-60 of the estimated 800 runners are Americans, with most competitors coming from European and African nations.
All of the funds Byron raise will go directly to the laptop initiative.
She is covering all of her own travel and registration costs. Marathon Sports is helping to publicize her efforts.