The Virginia runner beat cancer four years ago and is now one of the favorites at the Boston Marathon.
When Serena Burla takes on the Boston Marathon next Monday, she’ll no doubt be one of the runners to watch. After all, the 31-year-old ran a 2:28 at the Amsterdam Marathon last year—the second fastest time posted by an American woman in 2013—and easily won the USA Half Marathon Championship in Houston in January with an impressive 1:10:48.
Even more impressive? The fact that Burla, who lives in Falls Church, Va., is just four years removed from a cancer diagnosis, which resulted in radical surgery to remove a malignant tumor in her hamstring. Doctors told her she’d likely never run, let alone compete, again. She won a 10K in 33:57 just months post-surgery—and she’s been defying the odds ever since. If Burla continues on the trajectory she’s on until 2016, she will be a contender to make the U.S. Olympic marathon team for the Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
A good day in Boston will be sweet redemption for Burla, who dropped out of last year’s race due to a stomach virus. That disappointment, of course, was soon overshadowed by the finish-line bombings, a devastating experience she blogged about a few weeks later.
“April 15 was definitely a day with circumstances that had me afraid,” she wrote. “My life had been rocked, but I found comfort in the stories of the heroes—the first responders, the victims, the runners who donated blood, the people who stood strong and pulled together to show the strength of the running community. The ways in which runners are there [for each other] is truly a special thing. The unity provides much needed hope for many of us.”
Spurred on by that renewed sense of hope and inspiration, Burla hopes to join the exclusive group of American women to finish on the podium in Boston (Desiree Linden was the last to do so, placing second in 2011). When she’s not competing with the world’s best, Burla leads a relatively routine life, busy balancing training and raising her 5-year-old son, Boyd, with her husband, Adam.
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Here Are A Few Of Burla’s Favorite Things
Favorite local race: Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile Run on April 6 in Washington, D.C. “I’ve only been a spectator, but it’s on my bucket list of races. It’s like a spring awakening for runners.”
Favorite running shoe: Mizuno Wave Paradox
Favorite piece of running gear: Mizuno Women’s Inspire Mid Tight
Favorite local run route: C&O Canal Towpath. “It’s my favorite long-run spot, and I am always excited when I get a little bit further out and see a new part of the trail. It’s a little getaway into nature.”
Favorite place to relax: The Falls Church Farmers Market 300 Park Ave., Falls Church, Va. “It’s always a nice way to unwind on a Saturday morning with great food and music.”
Favorite place to get away: Great Falls Park, McLean, Va. “I love packing a picnic and loading up the family for amazing views of the actual falls and of the Potomac River.”
Favorite spot to get a post-race treat: Sprinkles Cupcakes. “The Red Velvet and Dark Chocolate Cupcakes are my personal favorite.”
Favorite places to get gear: Road Runner Sports, 1120 W. Broad St., Falls Church, Va., and Potomac River Running, 7516 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, Va. “Between the two stores you can find all the shoes, gear, gadgets, bottles and running fuel you need.”
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