Leader Spotlight: Mrs. Briseno


Maria Briseno began her journey with SRLA ten years ago as a parent volunteer. She says “running saved her life” and models to her students to never give up. 


Q: Where are you a SRLA leader? How many years have you been with SRLA?
A: I am the leader at El Sereno Middle School and have been a leader for ten years. I came to SRLA as a parent volunteer. However, Craig Johnson soon asked me to be a “sweeper” and I had no idea what I was going to sweep. He then explained that my roll as a sweeper was to make sure that I ran behind the students. However, at 242 pounds that was not a problem. I was always last but within the first 6 months of running, I started to loose weight and I started to love running and exercise. Now, 10 years later and 85 pounds lost, I can easily say that, “running saved my life.”


Q: What is your day job? 
A: I am special education teacher with the Autism program at LAUSD. I teach non-verbal students with autism functional skills. They are on the alternate curriculum learning to become independent, functional individuals in the community.


Q: What is your favorite training tip, quote, or words of advice that you share with your students?
A: Always do the right thing and do not cheat yourself in marathon training. I explain to the students that in my first year, my own son cheated in the 18 mile race by doing only one loop. Then when I realized that he had not come through on his commitment on marathon training, he had to be taken off the Eagle Rock SRLA team. He came back with all his birthday money and bought his own entry into the 2009 LA Marathon. He wanted to show that he was committed but he also knew there were consequences to his actions and thus was not able to wear the SRLA uniform in his first LA Marathon. This is the story I always tell my students in hopes that they learn that they must be committed and not cheat themselves in their training because there are consequences and even my own child was subjected to those consequences.


Q: What has been your favorite SRLA event of all time?
A: There are so many favorite events in SRLA but I will pick two. The marathon expo with my students and their parents, especially all the first time runners. The expression on their face when they know they made it. They have done all their training and the big day is just around the corner. After we are done with the expo having our carboload dinner at Souplantation with the students and family is also a great culmination. Secondly, marathon morning and seeing everyones face and the excitement that they have knowing they have arrived. The road traveled, the journey we take, is so much more than just crossing the finish line.


Q: What is the best thing about SRLA in your opinion?
A: The best thing about SRLA is the opportunity that all the students receive that they may not otherwise have had without SRLA in their lives and the privilege that we as leaders are given to guide these students on the journey to one of the biggest accomplishments in the runners lives is also one of the greatest things that SRLA offers to all who participate.


Q: What’s something that people might be surprised to learn about you? 
A: People think we are there for the kids but its the kids that have been there for me. The students keep me going and coming back year after year. I could not imagine my life without SRLA. I could not have done 10 LA Marathons and tons of other races without the students leading the way for me to follow.


Q: Do you have a favorite teaching/mentoring moment you’d like to share?
A: The most memorable teaching moment would have to be when we had let my son go from the SRLA team. Teaching not only him but others that I would not allow them to cheat themselves and I would expect the best from everyone of them.


Q: What three words might your students use to describe you?
A: Never gives up.


Q: Anything else you want to share? 
A: I could not have done SRLA without the support of my husband. He is an honorary SRLA coach. In my 3rd year of coaching we nearly lost him in a horrific vehicle accident but even with his spinal cord injury he comes back each and every year to help me run my team.

Make a donation in honor of Mrs. Briseno today!