It Takes a Tribe: Week 1 Recap

By Will Dean | September 18, 2017


In the live events business, you get used to long build-ups to a big day and the sense of anticipation that brings, but I was nevertheless underprepared for this past week’s media circus. It has been incredibly fun and inspiring but also a complete whirlwind. I was warned by several people far smarter than me that writing a book was tough and a challenge like no other. Candidly, I am not sure I understood the gravity of their words. Putting your own opinions and experiences down on paper and out there for all others to see (and judge) is an nerve-wracking experience. And after two years of actually writing the damn thing, with only limited feedback from a small group of individuals, you lose all ability to effectively judge whether what you have produced is brilliant or utter crap! So it was with great anticipation that I went into September 12, the date marked on my calendar for the past two years as ‘Pub day’.

The most fun part of the past seven days of media madness (which included 12 live TV studio interviews) has been the chance to spend time with some of the phenomenal individuals in the Tough Mudder Tribe. Last weekend the Today Show followed a group of Mudders around our Pittsburgh event and this past weekend I was in Midtown Manhattan with a brilliant group of Legionnaires who helped the presenters of Fox and Friends through a mini TM course we built on the sidewalk by the Fox studios. What never ceases to amaze me are the stories people share with me. The book shared a few of the thousands of stories we have been lucky enough to hear over the years but there are countless more inspiring individuals that no one from TMHQ has ever had the opportunity to meet. On more than one occasion this week I was brought close to tears as individuals described to me their own personal battles (including drug addiction and the loss of loved ones) and the role the Tough Mudder Tribe played in helping them move on in their lives. Your stories were humbling and inspiring and help push all of us at TMHQ to keep pushing ourselves to expand Mudder Nation and further promote our values of teamwork and camaraderie, courage, accomplishment and fun. You are what it is all about. Please keep sharing your powerful stories. I always want to hear them and encourage others to share their personal stories with me at

Of course, as an author, you also can’t help but read the reviews! Mercifully the vast majority of reviews have been incredibly positive. The Starred Literary Review (no doubt very familiar to all Mudders worldwide) described the book as “A wonderful, highly recommended book that will inspire all readers, including those interested in starting a business and those who have overcome personal obstacles.” And the Financial Times included it in its top five books of the month. Credit for this has to largely go to my co-writer Tim Adams but I was nevertheless pleased that my messages of the importance of team and community and creating businesses that do more than just make money resonated with so many.

Many Mudders have encouraged me to respond to Scott Keneally who wrote a review for Rolling Stone Magazine in which he protests that I am not giving credit where he believes it is due. I have only two points I would like to make in response. Firstly, I do not (and have not ever) claimed to have invented the obstacle course nor do I believe any other individual can credibly make this claim. Secondly, my account of Tough Mudder developing Electroshock does not claim credit for us being the first to shock anyone but instead describes the business decision we took to add something we knew had the potential to be controversial from a safety, insurance, and even ticket sales perspective, and then use it as a case study to show our early efforts at obstacle development. My book is an autobiography, not a definitive history of OCR, nor even Tough Mudder itself. I bring my own perspective and inevitably my own subconscious biases. In that regard, I believe Scott was remiss to not disclose his commercial relationship with Bill Wilson (aka Mr Mouse) relating to his documentary ‘Rise of the Sufferfests’. My only ask to anyone reading Scott’s article is that they take the time to actually read my book and draw their own conclusions. The Mudder community is a smart and resilient group, more than capable of thinking for themselves.

I have also been asked whether we will now ban Scott from our events. Of course, the answer is no! Scott has (according to our records) only participated in one of our events in the past three years (WTM 2016 for his documentary), but if we did find ourselves on course together, I would happily help him up Everest - and expect him to do the same for me. That said, if Scott participates in World's Toughest Mudder this year and The Cliff obstacle ends up being a 75-foot drop, the WTM community will know whom to thank. (Kidding). 

Anyway, that was my first week as a published author. It was fun. It was intense. It was rewarding. It took a team to get through it. In many ways, not that dissimilar from a Tough Mudder event. Now back to the day job. We have less than two months to get ready for World’s Toughest. We also have the roll-out of the Tough Mudder Bootcamp, the launch of our new 2018 event formats (including the super-exciting Tough Mudder X). It is going to be a really busy few months. Thankfully, at TMHQ, I have the greatest team in the world. None of this would be possible without them. It truly does take a tribe.