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Burla wins top American title

August 17, 2014
By JIM BUTTA ( , News and Sentinel Half Marathon

PARKERSBURG-Serena Burla is a survivor.

The Falls Church (Va.) native made her first attempt at the News and Sentinel Half Marathon a successful one when the 31-year old crossed the Market Street finish line in 1 hour, 13 minutes and 59.7 seconds to capture the $1,000 prize as the top American finisher in the 28th annual race.

"I'm just very happy and proud to be able to represent the United States," said Burla. "I enjoy competing against some of the best runners in the world. Today, I gave it my best, but it just wasn't enough (to challenge the former runners)."

Article Photos

Photo by Jeff Baughan
Serena Burla, in her first attempt at the News and Sentinel Half Marathon, was able to win the top prize as the first American female finisher in the 28tha nnual race.

Her performance was much better than one would have expected just four years ago.

Burla's rebirth as a runner began on a treadmill in the workout room of an Atlanta hotel in 2010. Earlier in the year, she underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in her right leg. As part of the operation, surgeons removed a tendon and major muscle along the back of the leg.

Two years later, Burla finished third in the Seoul Marathon in 2 hours, 28 minutes and 27 seconds and followed that one year later with a second place effort in the Amsterdam Marathon. Her time of 2 hours, 28 minutes and 1 second was the fastest marathon finish by a U.S. runner on a record-eligible course in 2013.

She followed those successes with a victory at the 2014 USATF National Half Marathon Championships in January, crossing the finish line in a personal best 1 hour, 10 minutes and 48 seconds.

Saturday she made the trek to Parkersburg in an effort to "follow in the footsteps" of her Mizuno teammates that had raced here before.

"We talk about this race all of the time. This year it was my turn, my right of passage you could say, to come to Parkersburg. I really enjoyed the course. It was very tough, but the people that lined the course really did a great job of encouraging us."

Burla's time was nearly eight minutes faster than runner-up Gina Bartolacci. The 26-year old from Philadelphia covered the 13.1 mile course in 1 hour, 21 minutes and 27.7 seconds.

"After about the first mile and a half, I realized that I was not going to be able to run the pace set by the Kenyans. At that point I decided to run a pace more comfortable to me and to try and pull as many of them (Kenyans) back as I could."

As it worked out, Burla was able to move up from seventh overall to fifth.

Winning the overall title was 24-year old Kenyan Cynthia Limo in a time of 1 hour, 11 minutes and 11.2 seconds. Kenyans swept the first four places as 26-year old Lilian Mariita was second in 1:11:27.9 followed by 20-year old Sophy Jepchirchir (1:11:35.2) and 27-year old Susan Jerotich (1:12:30.0).

"I came here knowing that the Kenyans would be the runners to beat and I was prepared to go out and challenge them. But, I'm not just there yet in my training so I will take the American title and enjoy it."

As far as Burla's plans to return in 2015 to defend her title?

"We will have to see. My coaches with Mizuno pretty much pick the races they want us to run each year. This year Parkersburg was one of the races they selected for me. Next year, we'll just have to wait and see."



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