Tough Mud­der

Exhibited by
Michelle Chambers
January 26, 2016
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Challenge event participants
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

A very welcome addition to the challenge event portfolio for a number of UK charities, Tough Mudder is a global brand that puts much emphasis on its charitable dimension.

This inspiring idea was presented at IWITOT London in September 2015.

Summary / objectives

  • To deliver a tough physical team challenge.
  • To raise money for Help for Heroes, the 28 members of the official Tough Mudder charity family and the many more charities who promote the event as part of their portfolio.


Tough Mudder began in the US in 2010 and started in the UK in 2012. To date, more than two million people worldwide have participated in Tough Mudder events.

Tough Mudder is essentially a half marathon assault course with fire, ice and electric shock obstacles thrown in for good measure. It is physically and mentally demanding and requires participants to work as a team to reach the finishing line. The emphasis is placed on camaraderie rather than achieving an individual best time to win. Competitors are both men and women, with some teams mad enough to do multiple events in a season… and of course you get very muddy doing it.

The official charity partner of Tough Mudder has been Help for Heroes since the event began in the UK. As such, Tough Mudder encourages website visitors to do the event in aid of Help for Heroes or to give a donation when they register. There are also 28 members of the official Tough Mudder charity family and many more organisations who promote it as part of their portfolio by securing own place supporters. Participants pay to enter, get their place and choose to fundraise for charity, or get a golden ticket place from one of the charity family members.

Creator / originator

Tough Mudder was created by two Englishmen living in New York – Will Dean, a Harvard Business School postgraduate and Guy Livingstone, a former corporate lawyer.

While at Harvard, Will saw that his fellow students were more interested in experiences and many didn’t have enough time to commit to taking part in sport on a regular basis. He began developing a concept for Harvard’s annual business plan competition that combined his reaction against hyper competitiveness with the fact that he had started running with friends (to make his own exercise less solitary). Before long, Will and Guy spotted a gap in the market and decided to deliver a tough, but not impossible, team challenge. Tough Mudder was born.

Special characteristics

  • Capitalises on market trends in the fitness arena.
  • Brings people together as teams and builds a community.
  • Is built and promoted on a set of values that mirrors those many charity fundraising supporters have:
  1. An understanding of being able to achieve, as a team, things that might be impossible as an individual.
  2. The desire to act selflessly and put others first.
  • Provides the opportunity for a tough physical challenge in a team context.
  • Has successfully used trial, rollout and reinvention to retain engagement.

Influence / impact

In 2012 there were three Tough Mudder events in the UK but by 2015 this figure had grown to 16. Naturally, Tough Mudder has spawned copycat events – run by charities and staged by individual volunteer fundraisers – but there’s still only one original.


Tough Mudder has had a charitable dimension from the outset. The event raised $500,000 for the Wounded Warrior project in its first US season. It then went on to raise £1 million for Help for Heroes (its official charity partner in the UK) in just two years. And since 2010, Tough Mudder has netted a total of over £5 million for a variety of charities across the globe.


  • Participants pay an entry fee directly to Tough Mudder, or if they have a charity place, they pay a registration fee to the charity.
  • Charities can purchase golden ticket packages.
  • Each charity incurs the costs of promotion to secure participants.


  • Extends a charity's portfolio of challenge events with low investment risk.
  • Promotes fundraising amongst all registrants, i.e. encourages those not thinking of supporting a charity to do so either through a one-off donation at registration, or by undertaking the challenge on behalf of a charity and seeking sponsorship.
  • Has dared to be different and brought innovation to an area of fundraising that can struggle to find new angles.
  • Demonstrates how to build a movement and a community.
  • Shows how a crazy idea can get legs if it has a firm business case and plan behind it.
  • Makes good use of volunteers and puts them at the heart of delivery. Volunteers are described as Mudder MVPs (most valuable players), and are positioned as a driving force.
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Tough Mudder’s team element means individuals can work together to raise money for charity.
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With fire, ice and electric shock obstacles on the course, Tough Mudder is a genuine challenge event.
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This event encourages participants to embody a strong set of values – on the course and in life.
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Teamwork and camaraderie are at the heart of Tough Mudder’s values.