350 runners from halfway across the nation gathered in Minford for the White Gravel Mines Extreme Adventure Run Saturday, an event that owners Tom and Mindy Martin says raised $7,000 to support their other free activities throughout the year.
Tom and Mindy are owners of The White Gravel Mines Productions, which offers public events as a way to reach the hearts and souls of others.
Tom explained that as Christians, he and his wife are driven to spread the word, and the mines have provided a wonderful medium for them to do so.
“Jesus has done wonderful things in our lives,” Tom commented.
The two just want to share that good news.
In 2011, the couple started with the Cavern of Choices, a show that took visitors through a Heaven and Hell/hope and despair tour. That first year, 1,200 people visited the Cavern of Choices. Last year, that had grown to 2,000.
Tom and Mindy immediately saw the potential in what they were doing but needed a funding source.
The following year, the two held their first run.
“5ks were popular at the time,” Tom stated. “It seems like a great use of the property.”
Unlike any other, the adventure trail takes runners half a mile underground. In the beginning, it was lit only by candles, adding to the difficulty.
Now, eight races later, the mines have electric and colored lighting, but the run has been expanded outside of the mines to include 600-700 feet of waist deep flooded lowlands. On Saturday, that water was 50 degrees.
Tom explained that he and some volunteers ran to trail themselves.
“It is cold,” he explained. “Your legs are literally numb by the time you get out of that water.”
In addition to the Cavern of Choices, the run supports the Christmas Caves — an event first started last year.
At Christmas, the Martins turn the caves into a large Christmas display that is inspired by Rudd’s Christmas Farm that was in Blue Creek. Tom explained that Rudd’s used to draw 200,000 people in a season.
“I think the appetite is still there,” he explained.
Last year, more than 20,000 people visited the Christmas Caves. Tom says he wouldn’t be surprised if they reached 50,000 next year.
Not only are the Martins reaching thousands, 600 people have been saved at the caves, fulfilling the goal the couple first set for the property.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.