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Will Dean
Founder  and CEO
Tough Mudder

Dean disliked the solitude of competing in marathons and triathlons, and he felt too much emphasis was being placed on the finishing time. After all, an amateur marathon runner’s first goal is, simply, to finish. “I believed there were others who felt the way I did, that they wanted to do an activity with friends and not take themselves too seriously, get a little nutty and not care about what time they do it in and then have a few beers afterwards,” said Dean.

The key element of Tough Mudder is that it’s not just an obstacle course or an event — it is a way of thinking. By running a Tough Mudder challenge, participants are encouraged to work together to overcome 12-foot walls and other obstacles to discover a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment.

“I think one of the hardest things when you’re first starting any business is this belief that people will actually buy your product,” said Dean. “Now, people are actually clamoring to go to our events. We fill up hotel rooms and restaurants and will generate $2-3 million for a local economy over one weekend.”

Today, as CEO, Dean oversees the company’s daily operations and more than 150 employees from its headquarters in Brooklyn. The company, which has grown more than 3,250% since its creation in 2009, puts together 53 obstacle courses across the world in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany with up to 20,000 people participating together during a single event. In May 2013, Tough Mudder announced that it had reached 1 million total registrations since it started.

Inspiration from experience on the front lines

Much of Dean’s inspiration for Tough Mudder came from a combination of his previous position as a counterterrorism agent for the British government as well as his experience in marathons and triathlons on three different continents. All of the obstacle courses are designed by the British Special Forces and the organization has raised over $6 million for the Wounded Warrior Project.

“The fact that we get so many injured veterans to our events and the sense of pride that they have doing our events is something that I think you can’t duplicate,” said Dean. “The sense that you built a company that gives people that is just an amazing feeling.”

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