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Gardner Pilot Academy special education teacher Liz Byron is giving new meaning to “going the extra mile” to support her students.  Next spring, she will run 155 miles through the Sahara Desert to raise $50,000 for the school.

Liz 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 – which is considered the toughest foot race on the planet.  Liz is running to raise funds to buy a classroom set of laptop computers for her students at Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA), a Boston Public School in the Allston neighborhood of Boston, MA.  Liz works as a learning specialist in GPA’s new sixth grade, as the former elementary school begins expansion to a K-8 school.

Liz Byron running“I’m running to support Gardner Pilot Academy because it’s an outstanding school with a remarkable staff and leadership who go above and beyond every day to give low-income urban kids an exemplary education,” said Liz.  “As we expand to grade eight, I want to be sure every sixth grader has access to state-of-the-art classroom technology to prepare them for success in high school, college, and beyond.”

The race begins in southern Morocco in April 2013. 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.

Liz, age 29, was raised in Dallas, PA, and now lives in Allston. She began teaching full-time in 2008. This is her second year working at GPA.  Liz 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.

“Liz Byron embodies what Gardner Pilot Academy is all about,” said principal Erica Herman. “She 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. All of us at GPA are rooting for Liz every step of the way.”

All of the funds Liz raises will go directly to the laptop initiative.  Liz is covering all of her own travel and registration costs. Marathon Sports is helping to publicize her efforts. To make a tax-deductible contribution to her fundraising campaign, visit

Watch a video about Liz’s fundraising efforts:


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See coverage in The Heights, Boston College Chronicle, the Huffington Post, on, and on WBZ-TV News:



Gardner Pilot Academy serves approximately 350 students, most of whom live in low-income homes. As a full-service community school, GPA provides extended learning time, including before-school, after-school, and summer school programs, as well physical and mental health services, and numerous enrichment opportunities in arts, science, and physical activity. In order to offer an extensive array of programs and services throughout the year, the school must raise more than $400,000 in private funds annually. For more information, visit