A local Brown County physician's bicycle wheels will keep on spinning next month even though he'll be in the eastern hemisphere of the world riding for a worthy cause to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
Dr. Tom Byrd, who is the Director of Hospital Medicine at the Brownwood Regional Medical Center, will take part in a seven day, 420 mile bike ride through the African country Burundi, which is located in East Central Africa, early in 2015.
"The ride is really a charity ride for a group called Burundi Youth for Christ," said Byrd about his upcoming trip. "I got involved in the whole thing when I worked at a clinic in the country about a year ago and it interested me."
The Burundi Youth for Christ group sponsors multiple clinics, schools and orphanages in the country and is helping make it a better place to live.
Riding the Tour
Tour De Burundi, as Dr. Byrd calls it, requires the riders to set a monetary fundraising goal and eventually those funds are presented to whatever the rider wants to sponsor.
"The Brown County area has been extremely generous to me and this cause," Byrd said about his fundraising so far. "I'm essentially at my goal and I'm going to match every dollar I've raised so far. It's really incredible to see what this money can do because the average person in Burundi lives on $1 a day. It's literally the poorest country in the world."
The reason Dr. Byrd even got involved in Burundi is, however, a bizarre story.
A famous long distance runner named Gilbert Tuhabonye, who would have been Olympic bound, experienced the genocide in Burundi where he survived machete attacks and also a store filled with his fellow tribe members that was burned to the ground. Tuhabonye later came to the United States and ran long distance at Abilene Christian University where he won a national championship and then moved to Austin to begin the Gazelle Foundation where water projects are done for Burundi. Dr. Byrd had a friend who was involved with the foundation and they got the idea to take part in clinics in the country which eventually led him to the Tour De Burundi.
"It's really exciting taking part in this and I'm excited to get back and see the beautiful landscape of the country," he said. "The people there are also incredible. Even with suffocating poverty, it's unbelievable how happy that all of the people there are. They're hopeful and happy about just having food and water which is something you don't see here."
Putting in the work
With a long ride ahead of him, Byrd has been training for months now, but the Burundi landscape is hard to replicate.
"I've done triathlons in the past, but I've never been a distance rider especially in mountainous terrain," he said. "I've tried to replicate the mountainous terrain by riding in Austin and Albuquerque, but I know it won't be exactly the same."
The hardest thing Dr. Byrd has experienced with his physical and mental preparation before the trip hasn't been riding itself or the Burundi relations with Somalia, but something that may sound a bit trivial.
"It's really just been finding time to train," Dr. Byrd said with a laughing face. "It's really hard for me to rack up 60-70 miles all at one time. It takes a good amount of time and with my work schedule it's definitely been difficult."
Dr. Byrd will embark on his journey in January.