Defying the Odds: Derek Zambon Trains for Cotton Row with Cystic Fibrosis

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Huntsville, Ala. (WHNT) From marathoners to first time 5k participants, the Cotton Row Run is available to a variety of athletes. Derek Zambon falls under a completely different category.

"I have cystic fibrosis, it affects all areas of the body but primarily the pancreas and the lungs."

CF is a life threatening disease which affects more than 70,000 people worldwide. Cystic Fibrosis makes breathing difficult under any circumstance for Zambon, but even harder while exercising. Years ago, patients were discouraged from too much physical activity but research is changing that. Zambon actually feels better after running than he would without a workout.

"The lungs are just like any other muscle in the body, the more you exercise it then it's going to be strengthened," Derek said before a training run this week.

Derek's mother Colleen decided to sign her son up for "No Boundaries," a couch to 5K training program designed to help anyone run the Cotton Row. Together, the two have changed their lifestyle through running and both expect to finish the race on Memorial Day.

"He could barely run a mile and now he's running the whole race," Colleen said a few days before Cotton Row. Nothing Derek does surprises the people he loves these days. He's living life on house money. "When he was diagnosed, they said he would be dead by five, but we proved em wrong."

Zambon will turn 28 next month, but before that he plans to finish his first 5K. Cystic Fibrosis may eventually take Derek's life, but the finish line is the only ending he's focused on now.

"If you're dwelling on an outcome that may or may not happen, it's going to affect everything you do. I want to have a quality of life. I wanna run, bike, hike and do all these things."

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