Tough Mudder’s Guy Livingstone Gives Us The Dirty On the World’s Toughest Event
Last week we told you about Tough Mudder, the new seven-mile, nuts-to-the-cheese grater, military-style obstacle course race that is unlike any other event you have ever seen. Even if you think there are other events like it (Warrior Dash, Down and Dirty), I assure you, they don’t compare. Designed originally to offer its participants an escape from the marathon/triathlon monotony of running, biking, or swimming in a straight line for miles on end, it takes survival of the fittest to a new level.
What distinguishes this event from other mud races, however, is that Tough Mudder’s ultimate goal is to find the toughest son of a b*tch in the world. How will they do that? The 2011 World Toughest Mudder, a two-day, 50-mile obstacle course experience that will pit those who finished in the top 5 percent of this year’s preliminary seven-mile events against each other. If anyone finishes this hellish test of pride, their grand prize will be $10,000 and the title of World’s Toughest Mudder.
Last week I sat down with one of the event’s co-founders, Guy Livingstone, to learn more about this extreme test of mettle and fortitude. He also gave us some insight on why they are giving away free tattoos to all finishers and how participants should train so they can finish the race without their tail between their legs.
Waffles McButter: Are you guys at all worried about this inaugural race or that perhaps all the Special Forces treatment will have made it too tough for people to finish it?
Guy Livingstone: This has to be a really tough race because that there are other mud races out there. But we are very keen to emphasize that it’s an event, it is something that you do, it’s not really a race. Sure some people will want to win it, but for the vast majority of people, just crossing the finishing line is something that we should celebrate. For the very fittest people, they should be able to do it quite quickly.
We want some people to not be able to make it; we want it to be a badge of honor. A lot of the people who are doing the event have done triathlons and marathons because they are looking for something more challenging. And we even say on our website, “Marathon running is boring. Fact.”
WM: As evidenced by my chiseled physique, my strict NordicTrack and Ab Dolly regimen clearly has me prepared for the race on May 2nd, but in your opinion, what exercise or training technique, above all others, is an absolute must for participants to do?
GL: I think the key exercise is cardiovascular fitness. You are going to be running up and down a ski slope a number of times. Provided you are fit, it’s all about mental grit and mental determination. We see a lot of people from Cross Fit gyms who we think might struggle with the cardiovascular aspect of the race.
WM: Although I probably won’t be taking you up on this offer, whose brilliant idea — and I do think it is genius to do this — was it to offer free tattoos to participants after the race?
GL: We think we have a really good logo and we think finishing our event is something to celebrate, we think it’s a badge of honor. And we want people to be able to acknowledge to their friends that they have finished this event.
WM: Can a person who failed to finish the race get a tattoo or are they shunned from all post race events?
GL: No, you certainly don’t get a free tattoo if you don’t finish the race.
WM: Outside of the free tattoo that you give out to the criminally insane, tell me a little about the respect rewards.
GL: We are very keen to celebrate toughness in many different guises. For some people being tough is being the fastest finisher, but we recognize there are people out there who have conquered injury and illness adversity in many different ways and they are just as tough, if not more so, and we wanted to take it as an opportunity to recognize these types of people.
WM: I have noticed that there is a lot of debate on blogs and forums that you guys ripped off of the U.K.’s Tough Guy competition. What do you guys say to those a**holes?
GL: You could say that every single marathon is ripping off the Greek guy who ran marathons for the Spartans some 4,000 years ago. The truth is: a mud run, military-style obstacle course is a military-style obstacle course, and they happen all across the world. Similar events occur in Germany, New Zealand, and Australia, so it’s slightly disingenuous [to say] that we are ripping off the U.K. event.
WM: The top 5% of all participants will be eligible to race in World’s Toughest Mudder to be held in 2011; that race will be two days and 50 miles in length. Do you really think that someone completing a seven-mile miniature version of that will have the wherewithal to finish such a trying event? To me that is like going from pee-wee football straight to the NFL. In other words, what the f*ck are you thinking?
GL: Let’s be clear, the World’s Toughest Mudder is designed to find out who the toughest person in America is. That is why we have an elite team of Marines doing the event and some Navy Seals and a British Special Forces guy doing the event. People want to test themselves against the best. We’ve even had military guys in Iraq and Afghanistan blogging about the World’s Toughest Mudder. Our aim is to basically define who the toughest person in America is.
WM: Copycats or similar races to yours are out there, so how does Tough Mudder intend on separating itself from the likes of Warrior Dash (which seems lame), Death Race (which is a scaled down version of your World’s Toughest Mudder event), and Merrell’s Down and Dirty (which on paper appears to be the most like TM)?
GL: It’s because we are much tougher. This is a really difficult event. Warrior Dash is great and it’s been really successful, but it’s a father-and-son event. It’s not a badge of honor. You have to look to some of the comments online: Tough Mudder is Warrior Dash on steroids.
WM: We have a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs on our site and since your company and race is still fairly young, what are some tools your team has utilized to make Tough Mudder become so popular in such a short period of time?
GL: We have an event that is fun, interesting, and different. We are using social media really cleverly to create a buzz and this distinctive brand that is very different than most other races out there. We already have more Facebook fans, in eight weeks, than the New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago marathons combined. We have a great website that tells a story, it’s interactive, and we are constantly posting about the events and the participants.
WM: You are basically selling an experience. What have been some of the challenges to owning and operating a business wit
h this unique dynamic?
GL: Straight off, experience is the luxury good of the 21st century and we are very conscious of that — it’s not material goods, it’s experience. Where else can you say, “This weekend I ran through fire, I went through underwater tunnels, I walked a plank?” These are things that no other event offers. The big question is do we think this is fun and do Americans like this? And that is the real challenge.
WM: Our site admires the military and all the freedoms that they provide us, so naturally we want to know how and why you guys become involved with the Wounded Warrior Project? Also, do you donate a portion of your race proceeds to them?
GL: We chose the Wounded Warrior Project because it really ties into the ethos and philosophy of our event. It is the idea that it is a team event and there is no person left behind. You have to look after your own. And it is an incredibly relevant cause right now in the U.S. and abroad as well. People feel a real responsibility when it comes to the soldiers. I know so many people in this country that have friends or family that have been directly affected. That is why we can raise so much money.
There are two aspects of our fundraising. We offer discounts to anyone who pledges to raise money for them. And then we have put a charitable auction in place, where we have people pledging money to get into the race and we have raised $15,000 within the last week. Our goal is to raise $350,000 this year and well in excess of $1 million next year.
As we mentioned last week, BroBible is giving away, via a charity lotto, an exclusive pass to enter this sold out race. We already have a few good men, including yours truly, running on Team BroBible and we are looking for one more to join us. So please find out more about how you can enter to win or if you just want to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project by clicking this tasty link.