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 10–16 mile-long (16–19 km) military-style obstacle courses. It was designed and created by a British Harvard Business School post graduate and a former corporate lawyer,[1] and tests mental as well as physical strength. The obstacles often play on common human fears, such as fire, water, electricity and heights.[2] 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.[3] An average 78% of entrants successfully complete the course.[4]

The first Tough Mudder challenge was held in the United States in 2010.[5] To date, more than 2 million people worldwide have participated in Tough Mudder events.[6]


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.[7] It has been widely noted that Will Dean took the idea from Billy Wilson and his Tough Guy races.[8] 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.[7]

Two additional 2010 events were held in Northern California and New Jersey. The next year, 14 events were held throughout the United States.[4] In 2012, 35 events were held in four countries.[9] Tough Mudder, as a company, is worth $70 million.[10]

On May 2, 2013, Tough Mudder announced that it had reached one million total registrations since it started in 2010.[11] The company had more than 700,000 participants in 2013, with events in the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada, and Germany.[12] 2013 also saw the launch of Mudderella, a female-focused mud run founded by several Tough Mudder employees.[13][14][15][16]

In 2014 the company also expanded to Ireland and New Zealand,[12][17] with an 18–20-kilometre (11–12 mi) military obstacle course in Auckland, NZ.

In 2015, Tough Mudder will host more than 50 events in seven countries across three continents.[18] In August 2015, Tough Mudder announced that it had hosted its 2 millionth participant.[19] Tough Mudder also launched two brand extensions in 2015: Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder, an obstacle course challenge for children created in partnership with Britvic,[20][21] and Urban Mudder, a city-based obstacle challenge featuring a unique set of new obstacles.[22][23]


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.[24] Past venues have included ranches, motocross tracks, and ski resorts.[25]

The list of obstacles also varies from course to course, though there are several “signature” obstacles at almost every event,[26] 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.[27]
  • Electroshock Therapy – Live wires hang over a field of mud which participants must traverse.[28]
  • 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.[29]
  • Everest – Participants run up a quarter pipe slicked with mud and grease.

Less renowned obstacles include:[30]

  • 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.[31]

In January 2015, Tough Mudder announced “Tough Mudder Redefined,” an initiative to revamp its courses by adding many new obstacles and updating the remaining ones.[32][33][34][35][36][37][38] New obstacles for the year include:

  • King of the Swingers – Participants use a pendulum to swing off a 12-foot platform and attempt to hit a bell before falling into a pit of water.
  • Cry Baby – Participants crawl through a tunnel filled with a tear-gas-like substance.
  • Dead Ringer – Participants use handheld rings to traverse a set of inclined and declined pegs.
  • Balls Out – Participants use hanging rope to cross an angled wall.

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.[39] 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.[40]

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.[41]

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.[42][43] 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.[44][45] This was the first fatality in Tough Mudder’s history.[44][46]

Statements released by Tough Mudder since the incident have discussed the company’s commitment to safety,[47] and Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean has stated that Tough Mudder events are about 20 times safer than triathlons.[48]

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 Soldier On (in Australia).[49]

In the United States, none of the revenue generated from Tough Mudder admissions sales goes directly to any charity.[50] However, participants are incentivized by the Tough Mudder organization[51] 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.[52]


Tough Mudder has partnerships with many notable companies; for 2015 it announced North American partners including Shock Top,[53] Chipotle Mexican Grill, Ziploc,[54] Cellucor, Under Armour, Oberto, and Wheaties.[55]

Additional international partners for 2015 include Sony,[56] Jeep,[57] Virgin Active,[58] Volvic,[59] and Bosch.[60]

Past partners have included Degree, Bic, Advil, Clif Bar, CamelBak, and Samsung (in Canada).[61][62]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How Two Englishmen Turned A Grueling Endurance Competition Into A Global Craze". Business Insider. 11 July 2014. 
  2. ^ "Brian Kilmeade Gets Dirty in the Tough Mudder Challenge on ‘Fox and Friends’ Set". FOX News. 18 May 2012. 
  3. ^ "What is Tough Mudder". Tough Mudder. 
  4. ^ a b "Turning a profit on the "toughest event on the planet"". CNN Money. April 17, 2012. 
  5. ^ "The Tough Mudder: ‘The Toughest Race on the Planet’". ABC Nightline. 
  6. ^ "25 Innovative Consumer And Retail Brands For 2015". Forbes. 9 August 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Branch, John (April 29, 2010). "Playing with Fire, Barbed Wire and Beer". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Playing Dirty". 
  9. ^ "Forging a Bond in Mud and Guts". The New York Times. December 9, 2012. 
  10. ^ Ganser, Adam (2013-02-20). "Running the Tough Mudder: A 12-Mile Long Torture Chamber". Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  11. ^ Max Rivlin-Nadler (2013-04-29). "DUMBO Gets An "Arctic Enema" Tomorrow". Gothamist. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  12. ^ a b "In Cold Mud". The New Yorker. January 27, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Mudderella launches among a growing field of women’s obstacle runs". Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  14. ^ "A brand-new muddy challenge that's made for women". Well + Good. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  15. ^ Ross, Alex. "New Mudderella Mud Run For Women". Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  16. ^ Murphy, Erica. "My Career Path: Cristina DeVito, CEO of Mudderella". Levo. 
  17. ^ "Tough Mudder Norcal 2014". March 7, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Tough Mudder's Will Dean brings in the tear gas to keep us hooked". Australian Financial Review. 
  19. ^ "25 Innovative Consumer And Retail Brands For 2015". Forbes. 9 August 2015. 
  20. ^ "Tough Mudder and Britvic partner for Mini Mudder events". Event Magazine. 5 February 2015. 
  21. ^ "Fruit Shoot launches kids' version of Tough Mudder endurance event". The Grocer. 9 February 2015. 
  22. ^ "First ever 'Urban Mudder' challenge coming to NYC". AM New York. 2 February 2015. 
  23. ^ "Treating Myself to a Full Course 'Meal' at the Inaugural Urban Mudder". Huffington Post. 5 August 2015. 
  24. ^ "Getting tough in the Black Diamond mud with Tough Mudder this weekend". Maple Valley Reporter. 
  25. ^ "Tough Mudder: Mud, Sweat & No Tears". Men’s Journal. 
  26. ^ "One Tough Mudder". Vermont Sports. 
  27. ^ "Tough Mudder’s 20 Most Badass Obstacles: Arctic Enema". Men’s Fitness. 
  28. ^ "Tough Mudder’s 20 Most Badass Obstacles: Electroshock Therapy". Men’s Fitness. 
  29. ^ "Tough Mudder’s 20 Most Badass Obstacles: Funky Monkey". Men’s Fitness. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ Kraft, Dina (2012-11-18). "Obstacles Test Athletes’ Grit". The New York Times. 
  32. ^ "Tough Mudder just got even tougher". The Telegraph. 
  33. ^ "Tough Mudder unveils all new obstacles". The Washington Post. 
  34. ^ "Tough Mudder 2015: What to Expect". Men’s Journal. 
  35. ^ "Are you tough enough? Mud, sweat and TEAR GAS awaits contestants brave enough to take on the world's toughest obstacle course". The Daily Mail. 
  36. ^ "Tough Mudder adds new challenges for 2015". CBS This Morning. 
  37. ^ "Tough Mudder Is Changing in 2015—Here’s What To Expect". Self. 
  38. ^ "'Arctic Enemas' and tear gas: How Tough Mudder concocts its brutal courses". Mashable. 
  39. ^
  40. ^ "World's Toughest Mudder site". 2015-04-09. Retrieved 2015-04-09. 
  41. ^ "The toughest obstacle course on earth: 24 hours of hell in New Jersey, US". Financial Times. 
  42. ^ "Mid-Atlantic 2013 incident statement" (PDF). April 2013. 
  43. ^ Jenni Vincent and Rachel Molenda (2013-04-22). "One dies after participating at Tough Mudder". Martinsburg: The Journal. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  44. ^ a b "Towson University graduate dies in W.Va. 'Tough Mudder' endurance event". 2013-04-22. Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  45. ^ "Witnesses describe wait for Tough Mudder rescue". September 2013. 
  46. ^ "W.Va. investigating death of Md. man". Retrieved 2013-09-01. 
  47. ^ "Mid-Atlantic 2013 Incident Statement" (PDF). 
  48. ^ "Tough Mudder CEO: Our Challenges are 20 Times Safer Than Triathlons". HuffPost Live. 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2013-06-02. 
  49. ^ "'Sheer ball-shrivelling awfulness': why do mud racers do it?". Executive Style. 2015-05-20. Retrieved 2015-09-14. 
  50. ^ "Where does the money go? - Mudder Nation". 
  51. ^ "Wounded Warrior Project Tough Mudder Charity". 
  52. ^ "Q & A with Carol Kruse, New Global CMO of Tough Mudder". Ad Age. 
  53. ^ "Tough Mudder Names AB InBev’s Shock Top as U.S. Beer Sponsor". Bloomberg Business. 
  54. ^ "Ziploc Teams With Tough Mudder to Create 'Tough Mother' Obstacle Course For Moms". Adweek. 
  55. ^ "Tough Mudder adds Anheuser-Busch and Chipotle to 2015 sponsor lineup". Sports Business Daily. 
  56. ^ "Sony announces Tough Mudder partnership". Event Magazine. 
  57. ^ "Jeep gets dirty with Tough Mudder partnership". Event Magazine. 
  58. ^ "Mudder Maker Is The Training Course Specifically For Tough Mudder". Huffington Post UK. 
  59. ^ "In pictures: Volvic's volcano hot tubs at Tough Mudder". Event Magazine. 
  60. ^ "Bosch sponsors Tough Mudder UK". Furniture & Joinery Production. 
  61. ^ "What Is ‘Mudvertising’ and Why Are Marketers Diving In?". Adweek. 
  62. ^ "Tough Mudder Announces Key Partnership Agreements For 2013". June 2013. 

External links[edit]