Tough Mudder: Extreme Team Building

Tough Mudder | BCBusiness

What you can gain from a gruelling military-style obstacle course 

Getting popped by 10,000 volts of electricity may be what you and your colleagues need to take your work to the next level. Participating in Tough Mudder—an 18- to 20-kilometre obstacle course featuring fire, ice water, enclosed spaces, live-wire electricity and tons of mud—is an unconventional way to unite your office, but a welcome change from antiquated team-building exercises.

Harvard Business School alumnus Will Dean conceived the course in 2009 and ran the first event in Pennsylvania in 2010. It can be a tough sell when the 20-plus obstacles come with names like Arctic Enema, Electroshock Therapy and Kiss of Mud, but the inaugural event drew nearly 5,000 participants and has since spread to 15 countries, including Canada (Whistler, June 22-23, 2013).

The obstacles are designed by British Special Forces and are not intended to be faced alone. “It’s all about getting people through the course,” says Tough Mudder public relations manager Jane Di Leo, adding that only about 80 per cent of participants actually finish. “You need to be able to work together and be willing to live by the ethos of the Tough Mudder pledge, which is ‘No Mudder left behind.’ You may be going as fast as the slowest person on your team.” Corporate teams may have the most to gain from the experience, learning how to rely on each other when faced not only with physical barriers, but also the bounty of mental obstacles.

“We’re not as individualistic as we might think,” says Di Leo. “It’s about teamwork and really getting to know other people and helping people, which can be countercultural to how we think.”

It’s little surprise that rugged West Coasters are jumping at the chance to test their limits in the arduous event. Christian Thomson of Langley’s Marwick Marketing Inc. says his office entered a team and, by late March, had already begun training together for this year’s event. “It’s nice to get out and about and socialize other than heading to the pub for a beer,” he says.

Di Leo advises corporate groups taking the challenge to train together beforehand, look at the day as a team adventure and have fun. “Everyone is going to struggle in different ways,” she says. “Use your teammates to help you get through it.” 

Watch BCBusiness assistant editor Kristen Hilderman and her team conquer Tough Mudder.