From Harvard, With Mud

Tough_Mudder_obstacle_Funky_MonkeyIn 2009, Will Dean, a Brit (informal term for someone from Great Britain) studying at the Harvard Business School, had an idea for a new company. His idea was to create a competition (contest) modeled on (based on; following the example of) one of the most difficult tasks on the planet (on Earth): an obstacle course used by the British Special Forces, part of the British military.

An obstacle is something that gets in your way, that makes moving from one place to another more difficult. An obstacle course is a series of activities that are usually physically demanding (very difficult), requiring physical strength and endurance (strength and energy to keep going for a long time).

Dean’s business plan was to charge people (make them pay) up to $100 to participate in a grueling (physically very difficult) seven-to-twelve mile obstacle course, in which they would have to run through mud (a mixture of water and dirt) and perform a variety of activities requiring speed, strength, and concentration (focus; attention). Along with a friend, Dean started the company after finishing at Harvard, calling it Tough Mudder.

Tough Mudder’s first event (in Pennsylvania, near the state of New York) was promoted on Facebook and drew (had attending) around 4,500 people. That was three years ago. Since then, more than one million people have participated in Tough Mudder events, making it one of the fastest-growing “sports” in the world. The company Dean started is now worth more than 70 million dollars.

Clearly, people like to run around in mud and pay good money (a lot of money) to do it.

Some of the typical activities found in the Tough Mudder competitions include Electroshock Therapy, where you run through mud with electrical wires carrying 10,000 volts hanging over your head; Funky Monkey, where you climb through monkey bars (see photo) over a large pool of very cold water; and Everest, where you run up a kind of ramp or hill that has mud and grease on it.

Tough Mudder also encourages participants to donate money to charities such as the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps members of the military who have been hurt or injured.

I’ve been thinking about participating in a Tough Mudder event.* I figure (think) if Lucy can go to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally,** I should be able to run ten miles through the mud. As I say on the English Cafe, “Let’s get started!”


* Not true
** She didn’t

Image credit: Funky Monkey from Tough Mudder/Wikipedia CC

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20 Responses to From Harvard, With Mud

  1. Dan says:

    Hi everyone,

    You know what is one of the most difficult tasks on the planet? what I did today, which is: Trying to mend a hole in my pants with the cat trying to catch the thread of it.
    You do not believe me? try that yourself.

    Tough Mudder looks hard, but fun at the same time. It almost looks like what I am going through daily at my workplace; wrestling against machines.
    Yes, that is the war between men and machines like the Terminator three if I remember that correctly.

    I am good at those things. I quite slim but have some strength and resistance both mentally and physically.
    I have developed those skills in 13 years of marriage and 26 of war against machines and coworkers at times..

    I remember at the military service, back in the 89/90s (That was in the city of Verona) at the gym I could get up to the rope like a cat.

    I think I would still be able to do that today. I have not change a bit from then. I can tell you.. I am in good shape.

    Hey Jeff, Why do not you really participate in one of those obstacle courses and post the video on the ESL You tube channel?
    That would be great and a lot of fun, especially for the viewers.

    Thank you.

  2. emiliano says:

    My dear teacher and friend Jeff, I have to read twice your note may be as it so odd, incredible, mad, crazy, and even more things
    I prefer not to say.

    I though I was a Little crazy doing some extrange things I use to do like writing a blog, not going out frequently from home, and
    so forth…….but this?

    No thaks, but if you are going to participate please tell me and iI will reconsider my wishes and it is possible that I go with you,
    friends are for doing that.
    The same that with Lucy if she wants to participate, I will do also.

    In this world there must be people for every thing that´s true indeed.

    My best to you Jeff, you know it. Please tell me if your are going to participate be sure that if you go I will go with you by all
    I am goint to ask the cat for, it is possible he wants algo to go with us.


  3. Lassana says:

    Hi Everybody,

    I never heard this kind of contest before; It’s very impressive to know that we can participate at that.

    That contest based on British Special Forces training ! What is the more impressive is to see that people gives money to participate at this event and I think it’s alittle bit expensive ($ 100 !). Bit if there is a part of the money which is given to the charities, I can understand.

    When we see the development of this company, I never imagined that the campany would this growth rate. Now the company has a value which is about 70 million dollars ! It’s amazing.

    maybe one day, I’ll go to this event. But before I have to do a lot of exercices 😉

    Will Dean had had a smart idea, it really had to find this idea !

    See you soon.


  4. Henrique says:

    Sounds good to me! I’m no longer a sedentary person, so I think, if it wasn’t a bit expensive, I would do that.

    From nothing to $70 million dollars! incredible and what a great business Dean has made!

  5. Parviz says:

    Hi every body
    Sorry I am away for a while, And I will catch up with you as soon as I am free.
    Thank you Jeff and Lucy. I read your post as always. I gust Have a little time To check in with the blog, But I don’t get to write a comment.
    Wish you Luck.

  6. Tania says:

    Hi! I like Meryl Streep very much since I have seen “Kramer vs. Kramer”.
    I have seen many movies with Meryl Streep.
    But, indeed, I think “Sophie’s Choice” impressed me most of all.
    Is it necessary to say I have never heard about William Styron, the American author of this novel?
    The narrator reminds us of Melville and his narrator, Ishmael : Call me Stingo.
    On the first page of the novel we find some lines by Rainer Maria Rilke in German language and an Andre Malraux’ quote:
    “…je cherche la region cruciale de l’ame, ou le Mal absolu s’oppose a la fraternite.”

  7. Tania says:

    Hi! I have found the book at my public library, but only in my language with the same title “Sophie’s Choice”.
    It’s a passionate, courageous book… a philosophical novel.
    It’s a courage to talk about the themes of the novel, but to write a novel…
    “At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?” “Where was the man?”

    I remember very well the scene when of her two children, Sophie chose to sacrifice her daughter, in a heart-rending decision
    that has left her in mourning and filled with a guilt that she cannot overcome.

  8. Tania says:

    May I share with you this memorable scene?

    “SS officer: You may keep one of your children. The other must go away.
    Sophie: You mean , I have to chose?
    SS officer: You are a Polack. That gives you a privilege , a choice.
    Sophie: I can’t choose. I can’t choose.
    SS officer: Be quiet.
    Sophie: I can’t choose.
    SS officer: Make a choice. Or I’ll send both of them over there. Make a choice.
    Sophie: Don’t make me choose. I can’t.
    SS officer: Shut up! Enough! I’ll send them both over there! I told you to shut up! Make a choice!
    Sophie: I can’t choose! Please! I can’t choose!
    SS officer: Take both children away!
    (Sophie clings on to her son while the Nazis take her screaming and crying daughter away from her.)
    Sophie: Take my little girl. take my baby!”

  9. Tania says:

    In that desperate moment, she chooses her son instead of her daughter thinking that her blond, blue-eyed, German-speaking son
    should be allowed to leave the camp and be raised as a German child.

    “You must promise me you will never ask me about my little child”, Sophie said to Nathan.

  10. Tania says:

    Meryl Streep filmed the “choice” scene in one take. She found shooting the scene extremely painful
    and emotionally draining and refused to do it again.

    Characterization was voted the third greatest movie performance of all time by Premiere Magazine.

  11. Tania says:

    Alcoholic and deeply depressed, Sophie is clearly willing to self-destruct with Nathan
    to commit suicide with him.

    Stingo recites the poem “Ample Make This Bed” by Emily Dickinson – the American poet Sophie was fond of reading.

  12. Tania says:


    Ample Make This Bed
    by Emily Dickinson

    “Ample make this bed.
    Make this bed with awe;
    In it wait till judgement break
    Excellent and fair.

    Be its mattress straight,
    Be its pillow round;
    Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
    Interrupt this ground.”

  13. Tania says:

    “Let no sunrise’ yellow noise
    Interrupt this ground”
    seems to be a ray of hope for the young Stingo.

  14. emiliano says:

    Yes Tania, I agree with you, this is one
    of the most dramatic scene one could see in a movie:

    The scene when of her two children, Sophie chose to sacrifice her daughter, in a heart-rending decision
    that has left her in mourning and filled with a guilt that she cannot overcome, as you said above.

    Cuca, always remember this movie scene (me too), I think she would like to read the book in Spanish, as Cuca
    doesn´t speak English.
    Meryl Streep as an artista it is a genious. I liked all her movies because watching her doing her characters
    it is a pleasure.
    Did you see her on “Holocaust”?. It was an American television miniseries broadcast in four parts in 1978, the
    plot it was about a German Jewish family, where the son James Woods plays the piano as a good artist who
    is married to a Christian woman Meryl Streep, I could remember it more or less but I would like to see
    the miniserie again.
    When Meryl Streep made the movie she was not so well known as now, but she was as good as she has been

    Did you see The Doubt with her, Philip S. Hoffman and Amy Adams. She was nominated to Oscar but another
    artist got it, instead Amy Adams got the Oscar by secondary artista. I love Amy Adams too. She is really very
    good and made a character so well being with the genious Meryl Streep.
    The three actors are great in the movie.

    My best Tanya, and thanks to remember this movie and book Sophie´s Choice.
    A dramatic choice, incredible to a mother who has to choice between her daughter and her son.


  15. Tania says:

    Hi! William Styron mentioned in his novel about “Reader’s Digest” magazine and Edgar Allan Poe.

    Just a William Styron quote:

    “A good book should leave you … slightly exhausted at the end.
    You live several lives while reading it.”

  16. Tania says:

    Hi! I saw and the love story movie “The Bridges of Madison County” with Streep and Clint Eastwood.
    Yes, a sad love story with the famous Meryl Streep’s weeping.

  17. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the phrase “a string of question”.
    We say a”stringent” of question.
    Thank you and for the explanation of Jane Doe, John Doe and Baby Doe.
    New to me and the word “doomsday”.

  18. Tania says:

    Hi! We have the same story with “to cry wolf”.

  19. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the pronunciation and explanation of the word “Monopoly”.
    I have seen this word in gambling but I do not know its idea: one person can control, can dominate everything.

  20. Tania says:

    Hi! Interesting this “Tough Mudder”. If you can practice it this means you have a special force and this is great.

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