BOSTON (CBS) – Running the Boston Marathon is a milestone in most runners’ lives.

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While it’s a milestone for most, it’s nothing short of a miracle for Serena Burla.

“I feel like I’ve been given a great gift. To put one foot in front of the other, to be able to run and to race,” said Burla, who is one of John Hancock’s elite runners in this month’s race.

In the fall of 2009, Serena started feeling an ache in her left leg. Runners are used to those aches and pains, and she dismissed it at first. But it got to the point where the pain was too much to ignore.

“I could still run, but it would seize up,” she explained. “I was crawling on the floors some days, the pain was so intense.”

In February of 2010, Doctors at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York found a potentially deadly tumor in Serena’s hamstring. To remove it, they would have to cut out the biceps muscle serving her hamstring. At that point, Serena wasn’t thinking about running anymore, just focused on living.

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“First and foremost, save my life. If you can save my leg, hopefully I can walk and keep up with my son,” she recalled thinking after receiving the diagnosis.

At first, her reaction was “I’m a runner, why my leg?” Then she realized what a blessing it truly was.

“Being in my leg probably saved my life,” she said. “Anywhere else I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to it.”

Serena has defied all the odds since her surgery, returning not only to running, but posting her best time ever in her first race back. She ran the 2010 New York City Marathon, running right by the hospital that saved her life.

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Now, it’s on to the 117th Boston Marathon. The race is very special to Serena and her family, as her dad ran in 1974.

Serena’s heard about the Boston Marathon all her life, and now it’s her turn to run the famous 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Copley Square.

“He always has this tone in his voice and his eyes light up,” Serena said of her father’s love for the Boston Marathon.

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So imagine his reaction to hear his daughter, after all she’s fought back from, would run the same route he did nearly 40 years ago.

“He was beaming,” she said.

But running the race isn’t all on Serena’s agenda. There’s also a family heirloom that needs replacing.

“There wasn’t an official T-Shirt then, so we bought one from a street vendor. It’s got a lot of holes,” she explained. “It’s well loved.”

There is no way to know what race day will bring for Serena Burla, but just getting to the starting line is a victory in itself.

“I don’t take it for granted, it’s such a blessing. I’m so fortunate to lace up my shoes every day and get out there,” she said.

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Tune in to the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 on WBZ-TV, the only station with start-to-finish coverage of the race!