LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – On Saturday at the Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon, runners will follow a fast downhill course starting at Kyle Canyon and finishing up in Northwest Las Vegas.

Among the runners is a 52-year-old man who has competed in three dozen marathons and he’s done it with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. MS is a debilitating disease where a patient’s immune system attacks the central nervous system.

For Derek Stefureac, running 26.2 miles pales in comparison to needles.

“I was such a horrible needle-phobic person that when my doctors told me it was an injectable medication,” said Stefureac, “that almost hit me as hard as ‘you have MS.’” He keeps 12 years of discarded needles from injections that are meant to keep his multiple sclerosis at bay.

But for Stefureac, it isn’t just medication, it is also miles. He runs nearly every morning, sometimes as far as 10 to 12 miles. His goal for Saturday’s race is a 7:45 mile pace. That is quick for any runner, especially a marathoner.

“When they diagnosed me with MS, they said it is a progressive, incurable disease and it probably won’t get better but we can slow down the worsening,“recalled Stefureac. He was 39 when he got the diagnosis.

He wasn’t exercising. In fact, he was a smoker.

“They also said you keep that stuff up, you keep on your path now, you’ll likely be in a wheelchair and we don’t know how soon,” said Stefureac.

At first, he jogged to help quit smoking; 20 minutes or a mile or two at a time.

“At the end of all my runs back then, I would limp, like my left leg would just drag on the floor behind me,” said Stefureac. And that motivated him to run.

“I had to really think about it, each step, and over time it went from my limp after 2 miles, to after 4 miles, to after 6 miles and now it doesn’t happen,” said Stefureac.

He couldn’t complete his first half-marathon attempt. With pure grit and determination, he completed his second try in 2016.

Stefureac wore a hole into both his shoe and sock, dragging his leg across the finish line. He’s kept the shoe and sock to this day.

In 2018 came the first marathon. Now, he has run 35 marathons in 6 years on 6 continents. In June, he’ll finish his goal of all 7 continents, when he competes in Australia. Stefureac says multiple sclerosis is the best thing that’s happened to him.

“I don’t think I would have found running. It is one of the greatest loves of my life and things I love to do now, said Stefureac. “I get a yearly MRI and there have been no lesions or scars.”

His neurologist at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health says the results are even greater.

“I would say he’s done more than halt his progression, he’s shown what we sometimes look for is disability improvement,” said Le Hua, MD, MS Program Director. “For someone like Derek to say ‘I have MS and I’m running marathons,’ I think is a fantastic power that he’s developed. It’s just a superpower to say, ‘I can do this, I have MS, it hasn’t stopped me,” she continued.

Derek says a quote by Confucius powers him to keep moving.

“We’re all born with two lives and the second one begins when you realize you only have one, and for me, that was huge. That hit me right in the gut,” said Derek. “I’m like we’re not failing this time.”

Stefureac hopes his time this weekend will be fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. That’s 3 hours and 25 minutes in his age group. It will mark his 36th marathon in 6 years.


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