Tough Mudder

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Tough Mudder
Tough Mudder SoCal 2013 Walk the Plank.jpg
A participant completes the Walk the Plank obstacle at the SoCal 2013 Tough Mudder event.
Type Endurance race

Tough Mudder is an endurance event series in which participants attempt 10–12-mile-long (16–19 km) military-style obstacle courses. It was designed and created by two British Harvard Business School post graduates and tests mental as well as physical strength. The obstacles often play on common human fears, such as fire, water, electricity and heights.[1] The main principle of the Tough Mudder revolves around teamwork. The Tough Mudder organization values camaraderie throughout the course, designing obstacles that encourage group participation. Participants must commit to helping others complete the course, putting teammates before themselves, and overcoming fears.[2] An average 78% of entrants successfully complete the course.[3]

The first Tough Mudder challenge was held in the United States in 2010.[4] To date, more than 1.3 million people worldwide have participated in Tough Mudder events.[5]


Tough Mudder was co-founded in 2010 by Will Dean and Guy Livingstone, both British citizens living in New York. Dean had developed the idea for the company while studying at Harvard Business School, where the concept was a semifinalist in the school’s annual business plan competition.[6] It has been widely noted that Will Dean took the idea from Billy Wilson and his Tough Guy races.[7] Dean and Livingstone held the first Tough Mudder event on May 2, 2010 at Bear Creek Ski Resort near Allentown, PA. Promoted exclusively through Facebook advertising and word of mouth, the event drew more than 4,500 participants.[6]

Two additional 2010 events were held in Northern California and New Jersey. The next year, 14 events were held throughout the United States.[3] In 2012, 35 events were held in four countries.[8] Tough Mudder, as a company, is worth $70 million.[9]

On May 2, 2013, Tough Mudder announced that it had reached one million total registrations since it started in 2010.[10] The company had more than 700,000 participants in 2013, with events in the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada, and Germany.[5] In 2014, beyond the NorCal 2014 (April 13/14, 2014), the company will also be expanding to Ireland and New Zealand,[11][5] with an 18–20-kilometre (11–12 mi) military obstacle course in Auckland, NZ.[12]


Arctic Enema
Arctic Enema
Electroshock Therapy
Electroshock Therapy
Funky Monkey
Funky Monkey

The typical Tough Mudder course is 10–12 miles (16–19 km) long and features 20–25 obstacles. There are six different courses, including the Arena, Backwoods, Open Range, Off-Road, Mountain, and Muscle courses. Terrain type varies from course to course; natural features of the land at each venue are incorporated into the course design.[13] Past venues have included ranches, motocross tracks, and ski resorts.[14]

The list of obstacles also varies from course to course, though there are several “signature” obstacles at almost every event,[15] including:

  • Arctic Enema – Participants plunge into a dumpster filled with ice water, dunk underneath a plank that crosses the dumpster, and pull themselves out on other side.[16]
  • Electroshock Therapy – Live wires hang over a field of mud which participants must traverse.[17]
  • Funky Monkey – A set of incline and decline monkey bars over a pit of cold water. The bars are slicked with a mixture of butter and mud.[18]
  • Everest – Participants run up a quarter pipe slicked with mud and grease.

Less renowned obstacles include:[19]

  • Electric Eel – Participants slide on their bellies through mud, frigid water or, even worse, a layer of ice while electric shocks hang overhead.
  • Berlin Wall – An 8–12-foot (2.4–3.7 m) wall that participants scale.
  • Boa Constrictor – Participants pass though narrow pipes and mud.
  • Walk the Plank – 15+ ft (4.6 m) high jump, from on top of a platform, into water.

In 2012, Tough Mudder founded an off-site “Obstacle Innovation Lab” in New Jersey, where the company designs and tests new obstacles.[20]

World’s Toughest Mudder[edit]

Junyong Pak
Junyong Pak
Amelia Boone
Amelia Boone
The first and second place finishers of World’s Toughest Mudder 2012

World's Toughest Mudder is a 24-hour challenge. Unlike other Tough Mudder events, World's Toughest Mudder is a competition, with the top-ranking man, woman, and team receiving prize money.

Only those who are in top physical condition, maintain (or are willing to initiate) a regular workout regime - and most of all who have completed multiple Tough Mudders or events of comparable difficulty - should even consider registering for the event.[21] The competition itself consists of a 5-mile (8.0 km) looped course, which participants continuously run through for 24 hours. The participant who completes the most laps is declared the winner. The winners receive the title of "World's Toughest Mudder" and a $10,000 prize for the winning solo male and female and a $12,000 prize for the winning team.[22]

World's Toughest Mudder was first held in 2011 at Raceway Park in New Jersey. Junyong Pak claimed first place, and Juliana Sproles was the first female finisher. In 2012, Pak successfully defended his title. Amelia Boone was the first female finisher and the second finisher overall. The team competition was introduced in 2012; a team from Pennsylvania calling themselves “Nine Inch Males” took first place. There were over 1,200 competitors in 2012.[23]

World's Toughest Mudder in 2014 was held at Lake Las Vegas in Nevada and was a 5 mile course with obstacles such as a 35 foot drop into a lake during the day and swimming 300 yards while keeping a torch lit at night. Top finishers in 2014 were Ryan Atkins (19 laps, 95 miles, male solo), Amelia Boone (15 laps, 75 miles, female solo), and Team Wolf Pack (15 laps, 75 miles, team). World's Toughest Mudder for 2015 will also be held at Lake Las Vegas.

2014 Results
1. Ryan Atkins - 95 miles - 23:30:46
2. Jarrod Pace - 95 miles - 25:47:15
3. Trevor Cichosz - 90 miles - 24:14:07

1. Amelia Boone - 75 miles - 24:57:52
2. Allison Tai - 70 miles - 25:34:48
3. Fraya Bartuska - 65 miles - 23:55:46


At the April 20, 2013, Tough Mudder Mid-Atlantic event in Gerrardstown, West Virginia, a 28-year-old participant, Avishek Sengupta, died following an incident on the "Walk the Plank" obstacle.[24][25] Witnesses told Berkeley County sheriff's office, which investigated the death, that he was submerged in water for between five and 15 minutes. A coroner ruled the death an accidental drowning and the sheriff's office concluded it did not warrant criminal charges.[26][27] This was the first fatality in Tough Mudder’s history.[26][28]

Statements released by Tough Mudder since the incident have discussed the company’s commitment to safety,[29] and Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean has stated that Tough Mudder events are about 20 times safer than triathlons.[30]

Charity affiliations[edit]

Tough Mudder supports a charity in each territory it holds events (usually military-affiliated), and encourages participants to raise money to aid veterans. Current charities supported include Wounded Warrior Project (in the United States), Wounded Warriors Canada, Help for Heroes (in the United Kingdom), and Legacy (in Australia).

In the United States, none of the revenue generated from Tough Mudder admissions sales goes directly to any charity.[31] However, participants are incentivized by the Tough Mudder organization[32] to raise money through their participation in a Tough Mudder event for donation to the Wounded Warrior Project. As of February 2014, Tough Mudder reports that their yearly revenue is approximately $75 million, and that participants have raised around $6.5 million total for the US Wounded Warrior Project since Tough Mudder's inception in 2010.[33]


Tough Mudder has partnerships with many notable companies; US partners include Under Armour, Oberto Beef Jerky, Degree, Bic, Wheaties, Shock Top, MedPrep Consulting Group LLC, Advil, Clif Bar, and CamelBak. Additional international partners include Samsung (in Canada); Strongbow (in the UK); USN (in the UK and Australia); and Solo, Holden, and Victoria Bitter (in Australia).[34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Brian Kilmeade Gets Dirty in the Tough Mudder Challenge on ‘Fox and Friends’ Set". FOX News. 18 May 2012. 
  2. ^ "What is Tough Mudder". Tough Mudder. 
  3. ^ a b "Turning a profit on the "toughest event on the planet"". CNN Money. April 17, 2012. 
  4. ^ "The Tough Mudder: ‘The Toughest Race on the Planet’". ABC Nightline. 
  5. ^ a b c "In Cold Mud". The New Yorker. January 27, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Branch, John (April 29, 2010). "Playing with Fire, Barbed Wire and Beer". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Playing Dirty". 
  8. ^ "Forging a Bond in Mud and Guts". The New York Times. December 9, 2012. 
  9. ^ Ganser, Adam (2013-02-20). "Running the Tough Mudder: A 12-Mile Long Torture Chamber". Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  10. ^ Max Rivlin-Nadler (2013-04-29). "DUMBO Gets An "Arctic Enema" Tomorrow". Gothamist. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  11. ^ "Tough Mudder Norcal 2014". March 7, 2014. 
  12. ^ "2014 Auckland | Tough Mudder". March 2014. 
  13. ^ "Getting tough in the Black Diamond mud with Tough Mudder this weekend". Maple Valley Reporter. 
  14. ^ "Tough Mudder: Mud, Sweat & No Tears". Men’s Journal. 
  15. ^ "One Tough Mudder". Vermont Sports. 
  16. ^ "Tough Mudder’s 20 Most Badass Obstacles: Arctic Enema". Men’s Fitness. 
  17. ^ "Tough Mudder’s 20 Most Badass Obstacles: Electroshock Therapy". Men’s Fitness. 
  18. ^ "Tough Mudder’s 20 Most Badass Obstacles: Funky Monkey". Men’s Fitness. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Kraft, Dina (2012-11-18). "Obstacles Test Athletes’ Grit". The New York Times. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "World's Toughest Mudder site". 2015-04-09. Retrieved 2015-04-09. 
  23. ^ "The toughest obstacle course on earth: 24 hours of hell in New Jersey, US". Financial Times. 
  24. ^ "Mid-Atlantic 2013 incident statement" (PDF). April 2013. 
  25. ^ Jenni Vincent and Rachel Molenda (2013-04-22). "One dies after participating at Tough Mudder". Martinsburg: The Journal. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  26. ^ a b "Towson University graduate dies in W.Va. 'Tough Mudder' endurance event". 2013-04-22. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  27. ^ "Witnesses describe wait for Tough Mudder rescue". September 2013. 
  28. ^ "W.Va. investigating death of Md. man". Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  29. ^ "Mid-Atlantic 2013 Incident Statement" (PDF). 
  30. ^ "Tough Mudder CEO: Our Challenges are 20 Times Safer Than Triathlons". HuffPost Live. 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  31. ^ "Where does the money go? - Mudder Nation". 
  32. ^ "Wounded Warrior Project Tough Mudder Charity". 
  33. ^ "Q & A with Carol Kruse, New Global CMO of Tough Mudder". Ad Age. 
  34. ^ "What Is ‘Mudvertising’ and Why Are Marketers Diving In?". Adweek. 
  35. ^ "Tough Mudder Announces Key Partnership Agreements For 2013". June 2013. 

External links[edit]