Kansas City runners to tackle nation’s most grueling marathon while raising money for veterans

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This weekend, hundreds of people from around the country, including a metro veteran and his team, will head to Leadville, Colorado, for what's hailed as one of the most grueling marathons.

The 26-mile race travels through trails and up mountainsides, reaching an elevation of more than 13,000 feet.

Tony Hoffman, a Kansas City-area veteran, is leading a team in the race, and their efforts are dedicated to an important cause.

The Leadville Trail Marathon starts out pretty typical, but the race is certainly not for the faint of heart.

"There's different challenges out there. Every one of us will struggle," Hoffman said.

But for Hoffman and his teammates, every ounce of struggle in the race is well worth it.

For the fourth year, he's heading  up team "Warrior's Ascent," representing a Kansas City nonprofit of the same name, which helps veterans overcome post traumatic stress.

"What's significant about it is teamwork and endurance. That's what it takes to overcome post traumatic stress. That's what it takes to finish this marathon," Hoffman said.

This year the local effort is being joined by some star power. Eleven metro runners will join a team of four elite athletes, including former Major League Baseball player Eric Byrnes.

"Combined, we are unified in the effort to save lives through Warrior's Ascent," Hoffman said.

Tony Hoffman

Another special member of this year's team is Justin Stroble. He's the first marathoner joining the group, who has completed the Warrior's Ascent academy.

The program focuses on a holistic approach to help veterans and first responders learn ways to combat post traumatic stress with a vision to save lives.

With an estimated 20 veteran suicides a day, it's a critical mission.

"Their community is impacted because they're productive citizens that go back into society, make meaningful contributions. So not only does it save themselves, it saves others around them as well to where they`re productive and living a good life," Hoffman said.

So far, the team has raised enough cash to send 24 veterans through Warrior's Ascent. They race Saturday and hope to raise enough to send another six veterans through the life-saving program.

If you'd like to learn more about their efforts, or pledge a donation, click here.