ORLANDO, Fla. – For 27 years, the Disney World marathons have been bringing together runners and amateurs runners from all over the country and the world. An event where thousands have inspiring stories, like Greg Cohen who flew in from California to run at his first Disney marathon.
"Movement is life, so it's really important to keep moving," Cohen said. "what we learn is that the more you just kind of sit around and stay inactive things get worse."
Three years ago doctors discovered he has Scleroderma -- an incurable autoimmune disease. He’s sharing his story to let people know the importance of staying active even if they’re faced with a painful health condition.
“I had tightening in my hands, I started developing digital ulcers in my fingers which was super painful. I didn’t think anything of it until one of the ulcers wouldn’t go away for about 2 or 3 months. It’s connective tissue disease which means it’s hard skin,” he recalled about the first symptoms he experienced.
According to the Scleroderma-Arthritis foundation, almost 500,000 people in the U.S. have the disease and most of them are women.
“I started having what felt like swelling in my hands, my hands would go numb. I would start having hot and cold sensations in my hands, where my fingers would get white and then purple,” Cohen said.
He said he still feels pain but despite it, Cohen is pushing through to accomplish the Disney marathon on Sunday. He’ll have to run 26.2 miles and pass through all 4 Disney parks, including one of their water parks. A goal that goes beyond the finish line.
“I decided to raise awareness for the disease that a lot of people don’t know about,” Cohen said. “It’s not about the disease that defines people, it’s about the passion that you have, I define the disease, the disease doesn’t define me.”
The Vice President of Disney Sports and Run Disney said it’s the stories of achievement that makes the organizers of the 4-day races continue with the annual event.
“The thing that’s great about the marathon weekend and these races, these people bring their own stories with them. These stories of accomplishment, these stories of overcoming, these personal goals that they have set,” Faron Kelley, VP of Disney Sports and Run Disney said. “And to stand at the finish line and to see their faces when they cross there, realizing that they’ve accomplished their goals and their dreams, there is no greater reward for us than that.”