A participant completes the Walk the Plank obstacle at the SoCal 2013 Tough Mudder event.
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 a British Harvard Business School post graduate and a former corporate lawyer, and tests mental as well as physical strength. The obstacles often play on common human fears, such as fire, water, electricity and heights. 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. An average 78% of entrants successfully complete the course.
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. It has been widely noted that Will Dean took the idea from Billy Wilson and his Tough Guy races. 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.
Two additional 2010 events were held in Northern California and New Jersey. The next year, 14 events were held throughout the United States. In 2012, 35 events were held in four countries. Tough Mudder, as a company, is worth $70 million.
On May 2, 2013, Tough Mudder announced that it had reached one million total registrations since it started in 2010. The company had more than 700,000 participants in 2013, with events in the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada, and Germany. 2013 also saw the launch of Mudderella, a female-focused mud run founded by several Tough Mudder employees.
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. Tough Mudder also announced a partnership with media and technology investment firm Seroja Partners to host an event in Bali, Indonesia in October 2016.
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. Past venues have included ranches, motocross tracks, and ski resorts.
The list of obstacles also varies from course to course, though there are several “signature” obstacles at almost every event, 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.
- Electroshock Therapy – Live wires hang over a field of mud which participants must traverse.
- 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.
- Everest – Participants run up a quarter pipe slicked with mud and grease.
Tough Mudder Half
In November 2015, Tough Mudder Inc announced that it would launch a series of Tough Mudder Half events in 2016. At 5 miles long, Tough Mudder Half events are half the distance of a typical Tough Mudder challenge, with over a dozen obstacles. 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.
Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder
In 2015, Tough Mudder debuted Fruit Shoot Mini Mudder, an obstacle course challenge for children created in partnership with Britvic. 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.
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. 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.
World’s Toughest Mudder
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. 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.
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.
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, with the top finishers being Chad Trammell and Amelia Boone.
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
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
In 2012, Tough Mudder founded an off-site “Obstacle Innovation Lab” in New Jersey, where the company designs and tests new obstacles.
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. 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. called Block Ness Monster. This obstacle received the highest participant rating of any obstacle in Tough Mudder history while in testing. 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.
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. 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. This was the first fatality in Tough Mudder’s history.
Statements released by Tough Mudder since the incident have discussed the company’s commitment to safety, and Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean has stated that Tough Mudder events are about 20 times safer than triathlons.
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).
In the United States, none of the revenue generated from Tough Mudder admissions sales goes directly to any charity. However, participants are incentivized by the Tough Mudder organization 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.
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. For 2016 it announced additional new North American partners including Old Spice and Microsoft Band, in addition to returning sponsors including Shock Top, U.S. Army, and Cellucor, and Toyo Tires. Additional international partners include Jeep, Virgin Active, Volvic, and Bosch.
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