Mar 19, 2010

A review: Tough Mudder Debacle

READ THIS: If you're here looking for a review from someone who's actually done Tough Mudder, go back to Google and click somewhere else. This page is about a February 2010 incident between me and TM's marketing/PR team. There is nothing here about the event itself that you'd find useful.

My previous two blog posts about Tough Mudder generated a surprising amount of interest and I continue to get visitors to them. To avoid confusion, I am summarizing what happened for the benefit of anyone who comes across my site from Google or another search engine. The other blog posts will be edited to link back to this one.

1.) I wrote a critical blog post about some copy I found on the Tough Mudder web site. After the criticism, I pointed out that I still wanted to do the race. (A true statement, and an attempt to try to be positive.)

Then, a week later, an anonymous person left this comment:

They've changed the wording on the site now - it reads:

"Marathon running is simply boring – FACT. And the only thing more boring than doing a marathon is watching a marathon. Road-running may give you a healthy set of lungs, but will leave you with as much upper body strength as Keira Knightley. At Tough Mudder, we want to test your all-round mettle, not just your ability to run in a straight line getting bored out of your mind on your own for hours on end."
2.) I wrote a follow-up blog post because of this. I was glad they revised it, but still critical because it the copy was still negative. I also mentioned a competing race, called the Warrior Dash.

And I thought that was the end of it 1.

3.) Warrior Dash contacted me on Twitter, and I don't remember exactly what they said but it was nice.
4a.) Tough Mudder posted on Twitter, apparently angry that I said something bad about them.
4b.) Tough Mudder posted on their facebook page, and photoshopped an image of me. This has since been removed, but I took a screenshot:

I want to be clear here: Despite my defensive attitude, more than anything I was shocked that they cared. After all, who the heck am I? It's rare that my blog gets more than 30 visits per day, not counting the people who subscribe in an RSS reader or see it on facebook.

Anyway, the conversation on facebook got deleted.

And I thought that was the end of it 2.


I just heard one of our interns posted something about you on our Facebook page this afternoon. My COO caught this within 20 minutes but not before you had a chance to view and comment.

My apologies, this won't happen again. I think they were just trying to be funny, but it was misjudged. Please accept my apologies on behalf of the Tough Mudder team. If you do want to do our race we would be delighted to have you as our guest (free of charge).

Again my sincere apologies. I hope there are no hard feelings.

Kind regards,

Will Dean
CEO, Tough Mudder LLC
I thought that was nice. Really, I appreciated it. I then signed up for Warrior Dash and paid the fee there.

And I thought that was the end of it 3.

But there is a lot of interest, apparently. But I've had a half-dozen comments since then:

FYI, Dean creatively generates all of TM's FB/Twitter content - the interns just execute his thoughts.
Other people have said (via private message) that he's "manipulative" and "duplicitous." Ok.

Interestingly, I also got a couple of notes by people associated with the Tough Guy challenge, which, as far as I know, has been doing this kind of event longer than anyone. They're based in the UK.

Hi chap, interesting blog! I actually help the chaps at Tough Guy and was fairly struck by what you have written. TG has a problem with the Tough Mudder thing - they approached TG whilst doing their MBA at Harvard, and asked for access to all the info to write a project plan to take TG to the US, for college credits. Now look what the chaps done! Starting a business is hard enough, doing it pinching other folks trade secrets is not just silly, it's the quickest way to destroy a reputation. Tough Guy appointed the first set of lawyers this week. More to come. ADD? Or just arrogance?
My thoughts

Apparently, the folks at Tough Mudder have managed to make a lot of enemies. I don't consider myself one of them. I feel a little like I have been dragged into a bitter fight here - a fight in which I have no stake and, frankly, no interest. The idea of an obstacle course with mudpits and fire and barbed wire seemed like a good time. But I really never considered that kind of thing as particularly challenging; rather, pure fun. What really interests me are the physical and especially mental challenges that go into running 100 miles without stopping, like I will attempt next weekend at Umstead. Races like Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder are merely an idle diversion and a good way to have a stress-free afternoon.

And I hope that really is the end of it.

Unless something crazy happens again, this will most likely be my last post about Tough Mudder or Will Dean.

Original Posts:
Feb 12: Tough Mudder and its Brilliant Copyrighter
Feb 22:Tough Mudder update, and I compare it to two others

October 2010 update!  A friend did Warrior Dash in New York and I compared it to my California experience in this post: Warrior Dash - NY vs. CA

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time