KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Imagine running 50 miles. What could get you to do that?
The answer is simple for a group of East Tennesseans looking to push their physical endurance to the limit: veterans.
On November 20, a group of veterans and community advocates will take on a 50-mile ultramarathon in Maryland called the "JFK 50 Mile." It's labeled as the oldest ultramarathon in the country.
"This is a great way to serve those who have served us," ultramarathon participant Matt Ryerson said.
Ryerson and his group of 9 others are taking their passion of running and coupling it with a good cause.
"We are gonna do it with the purpose raising awareness and raising money for those that have served us so heroically," Ryerson said.
The group is raising money, and all funds will be donated to the McNabb Center’s Military Services program. This program offers mental health services to anyone who has served in the military, their family members, or their caregivers.
McNabb Center military clinician Lisa Wilkerson said she appreciated the efforts the group is doing to help our veterans. She said the services are beneficial to many vets.
"The powerful part of our program is that our therapists are also ex-military... so we can relate to them. We know the culture, we know the language," Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson said it doesn't matter the discharge status or branch you were in, you can get help through McNabb's Military Services program.
Ryerson said he thinks about his own dad, who served in the Vietnam War, as he prepares for the long race.
"My dad and so many other veterans came back with so many more challenges than they came in with," Ryerson said. "They didn't really have the services to support them back on that journey into civilian life."
The group hopes their efforts help veterans know help is available out there.
"Things like mental health services don't have to be stigmatized and scary but they can be available to all of us, especially our veterans," Ryerson said.
The group has raised more than $1,500.