Keeping Score

Tough Mudder Love: Inside the Demanding Yet Rewarding Obstacle Course

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In this week’s issue of TIME, we explore the cult of Tough Mudder, the obstacle-course racing event held across the country. Tough Mudder was launched in 2010 and has seen rapid growth in people willing to put themselves through a grueling challenge – and paying up to $200 for the experience. Tough Mudder courses are 10-12 miles long, hustling participants through two dozen or so obstacles: there are electric shocks, plunges into water off of high planks, leaps into a vat of ice (that one is called “Arctic Enema”), and many runs through mud.

Nearly half a million people participated in a Tough Mudder event last year, and the company is experiencing a boom. After generating $22 million in revenues in 2011, the company had $70 million in revenues last year. Our story, available to subscribers here, explores the reasons behind the rise of Tough Mudder, and some other obstacle course events as well. Social media certainly helps: Tough Mudder has nearly 3 million Facebook “likes.” Let’s face it: post a muddy picture of yourself completing Tough Mudder, and your friends will think it’s pretty cool.
I reported from the event in Sarasota, Florida, in early December. Intrigued by the whole scene, I decided to give Tough Mudder a whirl (I’m not trying to seem cool, I swear. Just doing journalistic duty. Right?). See video of my experience, and more Tough Mudders working through the course, here.

More Photography from Time

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