Thanks to their passion for teaching *and* running, they'll get to live out their dream of participating in the famous marathon—no qualifying time necessary.

By Renee Cherry
Photo: Courtesy of Hyland's

Teachers deserve more recognition than they get for their tireless dedication in and out of the classroom. That's why Hyland's, a homeopathic medicine company, is attempting to give credit where it's due by rewarding inspiring educators with spots in the 2018 Boston Marathon. The brand conducted a contest and, after sifting through more than 1,600 applications, selected 17 teachers from around the country who go above and beyond when it comes to teaching and running. (Think of the most devoted teacher or coach you've had and multiply that by 10.)

Not only are these "everyday superstars" especially enthusiastic about teaching, but many head up youth running groups in their communities. Jackie Baker, Matthew Wells, and Kristin Clark are all coaches for chapters of Girls on the Run; Brian Pfeffer and Rachel Rodriguez are coaches for Students Run LA. Other winners have overcome health obstacles to continue running, like Stephanie Crook, who has completed eight full marathons despite a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. (Headed to this year's marathon? Here are the best hotels around Boston.)

High school math and computer science teacher Natalie Zimmerman, a breast cancer survivor who has competed in 500 races, thought applying was a long shot when she saw a Facebook ad. She went for it anyway and found out that she won in a reveal in front of the entire school. "Normally when I run a race it's just for me and my finish time. While I want to do well, it doesn't really matter," she tells Shape. "This time I feel like 'oh my goodness, now I have to do well, the whole school's watching.'" (Related: How Surviving a Rare Form of Cancer Made Me a Better Runner)

Photo: Courtesy of Hyland's

Another winner, Mirna Valerio, who runs ultramarathons and advocates for body positivity, jumped at the chance to take part in a marathon she had always thought was out of reach. "I had completely written off the Boston Marathon as a possibility because I'm slow, I will always be slow. I will never ever qualify," she tells Shape. And since fundraising as a charity runner can be as time-consuming as another full-time job, it was always an impossibility for her, she explains. "That's why being able to participate is so exciting. The fact that I'm able to do it with a group of teachers makes it even more special." (Read about how Valerio went from running a mile a day to competing in ultramarathons.)

Talk about a group of role models!


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