Having just wrapped up the race of a lifetime - a six-day ultra-marathon across the Moroccan Sahara Desert - Allston teacher Liz Byron's homecoming Saturday night should have been an ecstatic experience.
Instead, the 29-year-old runner returned to a battered city that is trying to bounce back from a devastating terror attack.
"I had no TV in Morocco. On Tuesday morning, I woke up to all these emails. I just broke down in the internet café. I was devastated," said Byron. She finished the race on April 18, then remained in Morocco for some sight seeing. "It was frightening to be in Morocco and hear about what was happening here in Boston... I watched the lock down on CNN."
The Marathon des Sables drew 1,027 runners - and Byron placed 211 overall, and 12 in in the women's category. She managed to raise $36,000 to buy her students laptops.
"My body got stronger as the days went on. I thought I’d be deteriorating," said Byron, who suffered from a stomach parasite in the days leading up to the race. "I couldn’t stand up for 12 hours. I said, ‘You must fix your stomach.'"
Byron powered through temperatures that peaked at 130 degrees, running between five and 12 hours of running each day, with the help of her students, despite the fact that they were thousands of miles away.
"I felt it in the desert – the students' energy, the motivation of being part of this faculty and this school. Knowing that I was doing it for others was such a huge push. I think it definitely affected the race in such a positive way because I felt support."
Although she hasn't participated in the Boston Marathon, Byron said last week's tragedy has only inspired her to support next year's race.
"I want to run in that particular race even more."