If you are in the mood to get wet, muddy and spiritually challenged all at the same time, then Minford, Ohio is just the place to go on April 29. Minford is a rural town located about two hours south of Columbus.

The Martins purchased the land and have turned it into a place where lives can be positively changed.

On that Saturday, weekend warriors and outdoor enthusiasts can put their athletic abilities and endurance to the test at the White Gravel Mines Extreme Trail 5K Adventure Run while being exposed to the Gospel of Christ along the way.

Crossing through chilly Jordan

A few years ago, Tom and Mindy Martin, of Wheelersburg, Ohio saw a vision to use the 70-plus acres of unique land for something positive and encouraging. For years, Tom said the White Gravel Mines were used by “nefarious people,” and all sorts of questionable activity happened there.

The Martins purchased the land and have turned it into a place where lives can be positively changed.

“It just screamed ‘adventure runs’ to me when we first got it,” Tom said of the property. “It has taken off, and each year we have more and more runners.”

The Extreme Trail run first debuted seven years ago with just under 100 racers.

The cross carry

This year, he expects well over 250 competitors to take part in the 5K adventure run, and many of them will be out-of-towners. “We have had participants from Fort Knox, Ky.” he said. “We have a lot of locals, but there are a lot who come from a couple of hours away for this event.” He added he would eventually love to see people come from many states away.

This year’s theme centers around the Roman’s Road.

“There are several series of passages and narratives from the Book of Romans that many preachers have used to lead sinners to the Lord,” Tom said. “Runners will see a lot of the same scriptures throughout the race.”

Like all of the productions at White Gravel Mines, the story of Jesus Christ is seen by nearly everyone via messages and signs as they venture along the unusual course through the hills and caves.

One local runner, Nate Banks, of Minford has won best male overall time in three of the past six events.

“I run a lot of 5K events, and this one is by far the most interesting,” Banks said. “The obstacles can be really challenging – especially the water – you come out of there numb sometimes.”

Like all of the productions at White Gravel Mines, the story of Jesus Christ is seen by nearly everyone via messages and signs as they venture along the unusual course through the hills and caves.

“They understand what this is about,” Tom said of the runners and the Christian messages they will see. “Not everyone agrees, but at least they are exposed to the Gospel at nearly every obstacle they come across.”

So what are the obstacles?

“I think the biggest one is the complete change in elevation,” Tom said. “I’d say by the time they are done, runners will experience an overall change of about 10,000 feet in elevation, and that can take some to their breaking point – physically.”

Banks, 39, likes the change in elevation throughout the race. “Going up and down the hills is where I make the best time,” he said. “I pace myself going up the hills and just fly going down.”

Then there are the mines.

The sweat net

The caves stay 55 degrees all year long and are now partially lit by a few lights strung up along the route. Runners will weave their way through the dark maze while encountering a rude awakening when they hit “Chilly Jordan.”

“Oh my, this is a tough one,” Tom said of the water obstacle. “They hit the water and soon figure out that it’s mighty cold.”

The temperature of the water stays below 50 degrees all the time. In past years, runners have had to struggle through about 150 feet of waist-high water. Now, the obstacle extends to about 700-800 feet long.

“When they come out of that water, parts of them –  mainly their legs – are numb from the cold,” Tom said. “And they have to keep going through the rest of the caves even though they can’t feel their legs,” he added with a chuckle.

“There have been some spiritual moments out there in the hills,” Tom said. “One runner got to the Cross Carry and was just worn out – and just broke down in tears…”

Two years ago, a “Tame the Flame” obstacle was added where runners must jump over a fire to demonstrate their “leap of faith.” “We’ve also added a “Rope Rider” where runners will brace themselves for a balancing act on a rope bridge crossover,” Tom said.

Runners will also face challenges in the “Sweat Net” – which is a cargo net climb. Once they master the net, runners will have to overcome another one which is about nine feet high. Soon, runners encounter the “Pondered” obstacle where participants decide whether to swim through or go around a large natural pond.

“I really enjoy the course,” said Jacob Perry, 20, of Minford. He has participated in several of the runs. “It’s not a dull course at all. It’s different and challenging and fun to run through the hills.”

The belly crawl

Then there is the “Highway to Heaven” rope-assisted uphill pull on a 55-degree angle on the side of a hill, followed by the “Devil’s Descent” which obviously goes downhill.  The “Belly Bog” is a muddy crawl under a covering of rope, and the “Decision Valley” is a rough passage of low hanging trees.

“People are going to get muddy and dirty and wet,” Tom said. “We’ve amped up the mud, so people will have all of it they can handle. But they always have a blast, and they get to see the wonderful message of Christ throughout the run.”

The natural pond

If that’s not enough, there is a “Squeeze Breeze” which is a small tube crawl, and the “Cross Carry” – where each runner must place a log on his or her back and carry it several feet.

Tom said a new obstacle is called “the old-fashioned military gut buster” which features some hurdles to scale as well as an eight-foot high log wall. “That will make for some interesting teamwork opportunities,” he said.

But it’s all about getting the message that Jesus saves the lost out to runners.

“There have been some spiritual moments out there in the hills,” Tom said. “One runner got to the Cross Carry and was just worn out – and just broke down in tears when she saw the message that was written out on a billboard, and she realized what Christ went through when he had to carry His cross up a big hill. She got inspired and carried the log and finished the race – that’s what this is all about.”

The story of Jesus and how He can change lives is seen throughout the race in subtle ways.

Jumping over tame the flame

“We are not in their faces, but they get the point – sinner and saint alike will see the messages,” he added. “Some have had real spiritual experiences through this ministry up in the hills and in the caves. There are obstacles in life, and the only way to get over them is with the Lord.”

In addition to the 200 or more racers, there will be about 50 volunteers making sure the event runs smoothly, and medical personnel will also be on location. There are also awards given out in each age group. Each fall, White Gravel Mines Productions also puts on the Cavern of Choices, and in December, the organization will feature the second showing of the Christmas Cave which saw more than 20,000 visitors in only ten showings in 2016.

For more information on the run, go to https://www.facebook.com/whitegravelmines/

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Del Duduit is an award-winning writer, freelancer, blogger and speaker. He lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, where they attend Rubyville Community Church.

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