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.
Official Tough Mudder Logo
Official Tough Mudder Logo
Motto Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet.
Type Mud Run Obstacle Course Race Endurance Events

Tough Mudder is an endurance event series in which participants attempt 10–12[1] mile-long (16–19 km) military-style obstacle courses. It was designed and created by Will Dean, a British Harvard Business School post graduate and a former corporate lawyer,[2] and tests mental as well as physical strength. The obstacles often play on common human fears, such as fire, water, electricity and heights.[3] 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.[4] An average 78% of entrants successfully complete the course.[5]

The first Tough Mudder challenge was held in the United States in 2010.[6] To date, more than 2.5 million people worldwide have participated in Tough Mudder events,[7] making it one of the world’s fastest-growing athletic activities, that draws between 10,000 and 15,000 participants per event. Tough Mudder currently employs over 150 people worldwide.[8]


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.[9] It has been noted that Will Dean took the idea from Billy Wilson and his Tough Guy races.[10] 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.[9]

Two additional 2010 events were held in Northern California and New Jersey. The next year, 14 events were held throughout the United States.[5] In 2012, 35 events were held in four countries.[11] Tough Mudder, as a company, is worth $70 million.[12]

On May 2, 2013, Tough Mudder announced that it had reached one million total registrations since it started in 2010.[13] The company had more than 700,000 participants in 2013, with events in the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada, and Germany.[14] 2013 also saw the launch of Mudderella, a female-focused mud run founded by several Tough Mudder employees.[15][16][17][18]

In 2014 the company also expanded to Ireland and New Zealand,[14][19] with an 18–20-kilometre (11–12 mi) military obstacle course in Auckland, NZ.

In 2015, Tough Mudder hosted more than 50 events in seven countries across three continents.[20] In August 2015, Tough Mudder announced that it had hosted its 2 millionth participant.[21]

In April 2016, Tough Mudder announced a partnership with international sports management company IMG to bring its events to Asia and the Middle East, beginning with China and United Arab Emirates in 2016. Events in Japan, South Korea, and Singapore will follow in 2017.[22] Tough Mudder also announced a partnership with media and technology investment firm Seroja Partners to host an event in Bali, Indonesia in October 2016.[23]

On October 1, 2016 in Jimbaran Hijau, Bali Indonesia, Tough Mudder held its first event in Asia, drawing 1500 competitors from more than 37 countries including Jakarta, Singapore and Australia.[24] On December 9–10, 2016, up to 5,000 participated in Tough Mudder’s first event in the Middle East that took place at the Hamdan Sports Complex.[25][26] Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean revealed that the company will seek to launch a chain of fitness boutiques in the United States in 2017 to expand the brand beyond Obstacle Course Racing events.[27]

Event types[edit]

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

Tough Mudder[edit]

The typical Tough Mudder course is 10–12 miles (16–19 km) long and features 20–25 obstacles. Terrain type varies from course to course; natural features of the land at each venue are incorporated into the course design.[28] Past venues have included ranches, motocross tracks, and ski resorts.[29]

The list of obstacles also varies from course to course, though there are several “signature” obstacles at almost every event,[30] 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.[31]
  • Electroshock Therapy – Live wires hang over a field of mud which participants must traverse.[32]
  • 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.[33]
  • Everest – Participants run up a quarter pipe slicked with mud and grease.

Tough Mudder Half[edit]

In November 2015, Tough Mudder Inc announced that it would launch a series of Tough Mudder Half events in 2016.[34] At 5 miles long, Tough Mudder Half events are half the distance of a typical Tough Mudder challenge, with over a dozen obstacles.[35] The courses feature signature Tough Mudder obstacles including Walk the Plank, Kiss of Mud, and Everest; however, they do not include any obstacles with fire, ice, or electric shocks.[36]

Toughest Mudder[edit]

In 2016, Tough Mudder, Inc. announced it will debut a new series, Toughest Mudder, in 2017.[37] The series will be six events held in the US, UK and Canada. Each will be eight hours in length, that will lead into the entry into the “Contender Category” for World’s Toughest Mudder 2017. In order to be eligible for prizing and entry in the Contender Category in the 2017 World’s Toughest Mudder, one must complete at least 25 miles at one of the Toughest Mudder events, in order to qualify. This new series will be televised as part of a new deal between CBS Sports and Tough Mudder, Inc.[38]

Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder[edit]

In 2015, Tough Mudder debuted Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder, an obstacle course challenge for children created in partnership with Britvic.[39][40] Mini Mudder events are designed for children aged seven to twelve, and are about a mile long, including of four laps of a loop that has 10 obstacles.[41]

Urban Mudder[edit]

In 2015, Tough Mudder launched Urban Mudder, a city-based obstacle challenge featuring a unique set of new obstacles. The first event was held on Randalls Island in New York City.[42] The 5-mile course featured obstacles including “Rock and a Hard Place” and “Rooftop Series”; the event also featured a live DJ, festival area, and beer garden.[43]

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.[44] 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.[45]

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.[46]

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 2015 was again held at Lake Las Vegas,[47] with the top finishers being Chad Trammell and Amelia Boone.

In 2016, about 1500 competitors from around the world converged on Lake Las Vegas for the third year in a row to compete in the World’s Toughest Mudder and witness history in the making. New to the 6th annual running of the event was a $100K bonus prize for the first team to pass the 100-mile mark. Team GOAT Tough, consisting of Ryan Atkins and Jon Albon, took home the bonus prize and first place finish by completing 105 miles (a record). In addition, all three men’s finalists surpassed the 100-mile mark (another event milestone) with first place going to Trevor Cichosz who also completed 105 miles. Stefanie Bishop, who signed up for the event at the last minute, took the Women’s lead early and never lost it, taking the Women’s crown by completing 85 miles.[48][49]

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
2015 results
  1. Chad Trammell – 95 miles – 24:00:10
  2. Trevor Cichosz – 95 miles – 24:17:34
  3. Brad Carron-Arthur – 90 miles – 24:35:02
  1. Amelia Boone – 75 miles – 24:10:17
  2. Sara Knight – 70 miles – 24:40:02
  3. Deanna Blegg – 70 miles – 25:08:11
2016 results
  1. Trevor Cichosz - 105 miles - 24:00:15
  2. Austin Azar - 100 miles - 22:43:51
  3. Kristopher Mendoza - 100 miles - 24:45:17
  1. Stefanie Bishop - 85 miles - 25:05:52
  2. Susanne Kraus - 80 miles - 24:02:13
  3. Morgan McKay - 80 miles - 24:08:53
  1. Team Goat Tough - 105 miles - 24:02:48
  2. Team America - 100 miles - 24:52:20
  3. Team Mayhem - 90 miles - 24:26:35

Mudder Legion[edit]

A person who successfully finishes a Tough Mudder event is deemed a “Legionnaire,” Tough Mudder collectively calls all its finishers the “Mudder Legion”.[50] Each finisher receives a headband for completing a Tough Mudder. The headbands change color with the number of runs one has completed— orange for one, green for two, blue for three, yellow for four to six, pink for seven to nine black for 10 Tough Mudders or more.[51] Tough Mudder created a handcrafted steel headband for the first legionnaire, Jim Campbell, who completed 100 Tough Mudders.[52] [53]

Tough Mudder has created weekly brand “rituals” for its Legionnaires to show its support of the brand on social media. They include “Headband Mondays,” where participants are encouraged to wear their headbands that they receive when they finish a course and share pictures on social media. “Tattoosdays,” (on Tuesday) where it celebrates its most loyal fans who have gotten tattoos of the brand. Fans who have gotten a Tough Mudder tattoo submit their pics of them online and receive a free entry to their next Tough Mudder event. Over 10,000 have gotten brand tatts.[54][55]


In 2012, Tough Mudder founded an off-site “Obstacle Innovation Lab” in New Jersey, where the company designs and tests new obstacles.[56]

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.[57][58][59][60][61][62][63] New obstacles for the year included:

  • 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.

In January 2016, Tough Mudder unveiled several new obstacles for 2016, including Block Ness Monster, a series of rotating blocks floating in waist-deep water, designed to require teamwork to conquer.[64][65] This obstacle received the highest participant rating of any obstacle in Tough Mudder history while in testing.[66] Tough Mudder also revealed three new obstacles for 2016 that are exclusive to participants who have completed more than one Tough Mudder event: Backstabber, an inclined wall ascent using pegs; Rain Main, a watery passage underneath a chain-link fence while water drips down; and Frequent Flyers’ Club, a jump from a height onto a crash mat.[67]

Tough Mudder introduced six new obstacles for 2017 season in November 2016. Obstacles include: Augustus Gloop, ascend up a vertical tube with water gushing down; Funky Monkey: The Revolution – an update on the original obstacle with series of revolving wheels to be traversed dangling over water; Arctic Enema: The Rebirth – another update on a classic – slide head first down a tube into icy water and submerge again under a wall to escape; Black Hole – an update on the original Birth Canal obstacle – one must crawl their way through a gauntlet of 100 lb. water-filled barriers in total darkness; The Reach Around – 20 foot wall that one must then go beyond vertical to scale over; and Kong – 30 foot high obstacle that participants swing from ring to ring at increasing further distant like Tarzan.[68] [69]


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.[70][71] 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.[72][73] This was the first fatality in Tough Mudder’s history.[72][74]

Statements released by Tough Mudder since the incident have discussed the company’s commitment to safety,[75] and Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean has stated that Tough Mudder events are about 20 times safer than triathlons.[76]

According to study by Canadian researchers and published in the Emergency Medicine Journal in 2016,[77] serious injuries are rare at obstacle course races like Tough Mudder. Only about 1 percent of participants are injured during obstacle course races, and most of the injuries are minor and only require first aid. Lead author of the study, Dr. Alana Hawley, of McMaster University in Hamilton, said “The health risks of participating in such obstacle courses are minimal, however, and are comparable to the injury risks at any mass gathering event.” Most of those injured - 89 percent - in the study group of more than 45,000 people participating in eight mud runs returned to the event without needing any further medical care.[78][79]

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.

Team Rubicon[edit]

In June 2016, Tough Mudder named its new charity partner Team Rubicon, the veteran first responder organization,[80] The goal of the partnerships is to raise awareness of Team Rubicon among Tough Mudder enthusiasts, friends and overall population, drive volunteer registration and activation, and help Team Rubicon in a $1.5 Million charitable raise by the end of 2017. [81]

Tough Mudder also is partnered with Help for Heroes (in the United Kingdom), and Soldier On (in Australia).[82]

Previous charities supported have included Wounded Warrior Project (in the United States) and Wounded Warriors Canada.

In the United States, none of the revenue generated from Tough Mudder admissions sales goes directly to any charity.[83] However, participants are incentivized by the Tough Mudder organization[84] 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.[85]


Tough Mudder has partnerships with many notable companies. In November 2015, Tough Mudder announced Merrell as the presenting partner for Tough Mudder and Tough Mudder Half, in a global multi-year deal.[86][87] For 2016 it announced additional new North American partners including Old Spice[88] and Microsoft Band,[89] in addition to returning sponsors including Shock Top,[90] U.S. Army, and Cellucor, and Toyo Tires.[91] Additional international partners include Jeep,[92] Virgin Active,[93] Volvic,[94] and Bosch.[95]

Past partners have included Chipotle Mexican Grill, Ziploc,[96] Under Armour, Oberto, Wheaties, Degree, Bic, Advil, Clif Bar, CamelBak, Sony,[97] and Samsung (in Canada).[98][99] [100]

Digital Content/Online Video[edit]

Tough Mudder brand has expanded by emphasizing and employing shareable content centered around training tips and inspirational participant stories with a great focus on video and live streaming.[101] Tough Mudder began streaming their live events in 2016 and “has been a hit” on live digital platforms, gaining popularity for Tough Mudder. A dozen events, streamed via Livestream and Facebook, averaged 723,316 views each with a global reach of 42.5 million and in June 2016, the event at Tahoe, was seen by millions on Snapchat.[102] In 2016, season 2 of the weekly training series “Coachified” has over 3.5M views on Facebook.[101] Tough Mudder's YouTube channel has over 85.7 million views, up 23% since May.[102]

Tough Mudder finished 2016 by garnering 3.6 Million Views for its’ 24-hour live streaming of World’s Toughest Mudder setting a record for obstacle course racing events. Viewers from more than 200 countries around the world tuned in on mobile and OTT devices, and computers to watch on Tough Mudder’s proprietary live stream and/or Facebook Live.[103][104] The company has been identified as one of the live streaming industry’s content leaders and success stories along with such others as Buzzfeed.[105][106][107] [108]


CBS Sports[edit]

In 2016, CBS Sports and Tough Mudder, Inc. announced a programming deal that will span across broadcast, cable and OTT/Streaming/OnDemand platforms that will offer an inside look at World’s Toughest Mudder as competitors vie for a $100K prize.[109]

In December 2016, CBS Sports aired two shows - “Road to the World’s Toughest Mudder,” on December 15 on CBS Sports Network,[110] which provided a comprehensive look at Tough Mudder leading up to the 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder event in Las Vegas. CBS (broadcast) televised on December 25, "World’s Toughest Mudder”, followed by a post-event roundtable show on CBS Sports Network that featured the top competitors from the 2016 event.

In 2017, CBS Sports Network will air coverage from each of the six-event “Toughest Mudder Series,” going behind-the-scenes as teams train and compete in the new event. CBS Sports again will air on CBS the "2017 World’s Toughest Mudder”. CBS Sports Digital will feature live streaming coverage of Toughest Mudder events on and the CBS Sports apps for mobile and connected TV devices, along with on-demand video content available across CBS Sports digital and social platforms.[111]

The CW[edit]

The CW In 2016, The CW and Tough Mudder, Inc. announced a six-part series, multi-platform programming deal that will run on CW Seed (the CW’s digital network/streaming platform) and The CW network in 2017. [112] The docu-series will focus on “everyday heroes” attempting to run and complete a Tough Mudder including their personal stories and training for the grueling obstacle course that tests teamwork skills, physical abilities and “mental grit.[113] Episodes one through five will debut on CW Seed. The finale will feature the team tackling the course and will be broadcast on The CW Network.[114] [115] The five part series entitled “The Challenge Within” debuted on CW Seed on Feb. 2, 2017 with the hour-long finale airing The CW Network on Feb. 14, 2017.[116]

Flatbush Pictures and Judd Ehrlich, the documentary team behind We Could Be King, the 2014 Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Sports Documentary and recipient of a Grand Clio, will serve as executive producers of the series, along with Jesse Bull of Tough Mudder.[112][113]

Sky Sports[edit]

Sky Sports and Tough Mudder announced in early January 2017 that on January 24, 2017 Sky Sports Mix would run Road to World’s Toughest Mudder followed by coverage of the 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder on January 26, 2017. In addition, Sky Sports Mix will also carry The Challenge Within later in the year.[117] .[118] Additionally, later this year Sky Sports will air a series that follows five current and former British Olympians running Tough Mudder challenges. [119] The partnership is Tough Mudder’s first broadcast/video content partnership in the UK and includes content on across Sky Sports’ apps for mobile devices and connected devices, as well as on and across Sky’s social media channels in January 2017. [120]

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External links[edit]