Does the domestication of Wall Street really grind your gears? Does it kill you to sign emails “Best” or “Thx,” when what you’d really like to do is walk over to the person you’re corresponding with and simply grunt out your request? Are you shamed of the fact that your hands not only look like you’ve never done manual labor in your life but that you get regular manicures to keep lines and ragged cuticles at bay? Does it burn you up inside to order yet another lunch of salad and diet Coke via SeamlessWeb, when deep down inside you know what you should be doing for lunch is hunting and killing it yourself via bow and arrow? Does it chap your hide to no end that the JPMorgan 5K is considered a physical challenge, when real challenges are supposed to involve carrying someone for many miles on your back and being electrocuted? Do you want to bond with like-minded individuals looking to put hair on their chests and pay a fee of $80-$200 so your nipples can finally know real pain? Then Tougher Mudder* might be right for you.

Started in 2010 by a Harvard Business School graduate, Tough Mudder has exploded onto the fitness scene, with 35 races this year in 4 countries and 660,000 participants to date. Next year, 55 events are scheduled for 5 countries. Along with other quasi-military obstacle courses like the Spartan Race and Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder is the new gantlet for body-conscious Gen Xers. Though the muddy details vary, each challenge consists of a 3- to 12-mile course spiked with cheekily named obstacles like Ball Shrinker…The common motivator could be called the Walter Mitty weekend-warrior complex. While the races draw a fair share of endurance athletes and ex-military, many of the muddiest, most avid, most agro participants hail from Wall Street…“Obstacle courses like these are the physical representation of masculinity, which is lacking for people like lawyers, doctors, bankers and others in softer careers,” said Dr. Robert Heasley, a sociology professor at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the president of the American Men’s Studies Association. “By associating themselves with the military and military training, these men are becoming masculine by association.” founders of these tough-guy races are intimately familiar with that primal urge. Mr. Dean, a former intern at Bain Capital, developed the business plan for Tough Mudder as part of a competition at Harvard. “Finance people are in a weird juxtaposition,” Mr. Dean said. “They may make 100 times more than their fathers, but their hands are soft. We designed Tough Mudder to fill that void.”

Interested but need to know about what day of ball shrinking and void-filling will entail? Here’s what you can expect:

* A colon cleansing and sense of smugness come Monday.

Michael Cugini would be back at his desk at a major Wall Street firm, another high-powered cog in the engine of finance. There would be men on his left, men on his right, all yelling into their phones and scanning the stock ticker. But Mr. Cugini bore unseen scars beneath his crisp custom suit. Twenty-four hours earlier, Mr. Cugini (nickname Cujo) was shirtless, face down, crawling through a 40-foot-long pit of cold mud, while being electrified by low-hanging wires. He also scaled a 15-foot-high wall, ran 12 miles and underwent something called an Arctic Enema, in which he jumped into a Dumpster filled with ice water, dyed neon green, and swam under concertina wire. “There’s always a lot of moaning on Monday morning,” said Mr. Cugini, 31, a small man with a bald head and a strong grip. “And I just think, ‘Come on, what did you do this weekend?’ ”

*Free haircuts.

The chest thumping began before the first obstacle. Next to a cheesesteak stand, a barbershop was set up to dispense free mohawks. A chin-up bar was erected next to a chalkboard, where the highest scores were posted. Nearby, men warmed up by tossing kegs at a cardboard cutout of Fabio.

*Electric shock therapy.

A few miles ahead, Brian Polakowski, 36, a vice president of BlackRock, the giant money manager in Midtown Manhattan, had collapsed into a muddy pit after being electrocuted in the Electric Eel challenge. As he crawled from exhaustion, a stranger grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to his feet, saying, “You did it, man, you did it.” Mr. Polakowski stumbled on.

*Hugs when warranted.

Male bonding, needless to say, figures prominently. Like Iron John before it, these obstacle challenges are designed to forge camaraderie. The bonhomie is reinforced by challenges like the Everest and Berlin Walls, which require the men to work together and, in some cases, stand on one another’s shoulders. There are many one-arm bro-hugs, and even some full embraces.

* A terrorist attack on your erogenous zones.

“Goldman brings a massive team,” said Will Dean, the 31-year-old founder of Tough Mudder. “So does Morgan Stanley.” That they do makes sense since Mr. Dean tailored his sport for cubicle-bound masses yearning to breathe free. “When we started Tough Mudder, we identified a few key demographics,” he said. “One of them was the white-collar urban professional.” From a distance, the Tough Mudder course at the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park looked more like a medieval battlefield than a 400-acre racetrack. Beefy figures, silhouetted against a frigid slate gray sky, faltered up steep hills. In the gravel parking lot, teams of men prepared for battle. Some stretched, others squeezed into compression shirts. One man, placing surgical tape on his chest, said fearfully, “This is going to be 9/11 on my nipples.”

Who is in?

Forging A Bond In Mud And Guts [NYT]
Related: New Trend On Wall Street Involves Chopping Wood, Hypothermia, If You’ve Got The Balls
*Similar to the Spartan Races, which include not just physical but mental challenges and also weed out the men from the men who can dice onions (“The 24-hour Dantean course — which involves chopping wood for two hours, carrying rocks for five hours, cutting a bushel of onions and memorizing the first 10 presidents of the United States — was partly inspired by the film ‘300,’ which chronicled the Spartan stand at Thermopylae”).

49 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (49)

  1. Posted by Master Blaster | December 10, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Cage match or GTFO. Two man enter one man leaves.

  2. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    Sounds like they’re all part of the that “Yale” thing….In the morning if my face is a little puffy I'll put on an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do 1000 now. After I remove the ice pack I use a deep pore cleanser lotion. In the shower I use a water activated gel cleanser, then a honey almond body scrub, and on the face an exfoliating gel scrub.

    Then I apply an herb-mint facial mask which I leave on for 10 minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use an after shave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older.

    Then moisturizer, then an anti-aging eye balm followed by a final moisturizing protective lotion.

  3. Posted by guest | December 10, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Thanks for leaving a quote from American Psycho. No one has ever thought to do such a thing.

  4. Posted by Andy | December 10, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    I think a man working outdoors feels more like a man if he can have a bottle of suds…. That's only my opinion.

  5. Posted by Laxbro | December 10, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    The slimy fuck that started Tough Mudder completely jacked the idea from some Brit soldier (who created a competition called Tough Guy) while a student at HBS. But I guess it's fitting that a piece of shit douchebag is profiting off the office douchebags who actually do these events.

  6. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    Intern lunch run
    -Caption contest

  7. Posted by guest | December 10, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    Thanks for that bit of intel that was included in the article the above post is based on.

  8. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    Meh, I just drive to Montreal during the weekends.

  9. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Might as well run a 5k.

    Want a real test? GoRuck Challenge is the way to go.

  10. Posted by Sleeper | December 10, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    "underwent something called an Arctic Enema".

    Go on.

    – Ping

  11. Posted by Bejujular | December 10, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    Screw savagery. I want me some Warby Parkers!

  12. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    Dis is a normal commute to work for me.

    -Chazzy Muderino

  13. Posted by guest | December 10, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    These races are so dumb. If you sex and drinking aren't enough to make you feel like a man, then you are doing it wrong.

  14. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Bess – no mention of the free tattoos offered?

  15. Posted by Texashedge | December 10, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    If they really wanted to be savage, they'd leave Piggy there on the left behind to die.

  16. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    Team Minetta's would crush this event. And then meet the event at Minetta's and crush them again.

  17. Posted by Tina T. | December 10, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    We don't need another hero

  18. Posted by MissFratDays | December 10, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    Can we have the interns run this while we shoot them with paintballs?

    -GS Analyst Bonding Quant

  19. Posted by Tougher Matter | December 10, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    So is Matt doing this instead of taking the CFA level 2?

  20. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    If you think this sounds tough, you have no idea. This course is absolutely brutal – I have seen grown men break down into tears without even making it to Martin Van Buren.

  21. Posted by Abe_Froman_ | December 10, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    Sorry Cugini, I play real sports. Not trying to be the best at exercising

  22. Posted by FailedGenericUBSJoke | December 10, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    This is the moment when I regret going into finance…And I am so close to having enough for a down payment on a Honda.

  23. Posted by That Wrong Dude | December 10, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    *Showering Together

    “Goldman brings a massive team, and they all shower for about an hour together before the race,” said Will Dean, the 31-year-old founder of Tough Mudder. “So does Morgan Stanley.”

  24. Posted by Laxbro | December 10, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    Not in the Times piece: He hit up the soldier and got access to financials, etc. for a business school report with the agreement that he would in turn provide assistance with expanding operations. Then surprise surprise he partners up with a lawyer and they launch Tough Mudder.

  25. Posted by Laxbro | December 10, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    Stories after raging in Montreal > douches at office bragging about the $500 a month they blow at Vitamin Shoppe, months of life wasted training to run through a more or less muddy version of a Double Dare obstacle course and don't forget how they could of gone D1 but their HS coach didn't like them

  26. Posted by HAM05 | December 10, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    still can't figure out whose more insufferable, tough mudder dudes of x-fit (sp?) girls

  27. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    "… had collapsed into a muddy pit after being electrocuted in the Electric Eel challenge. As he crawled from exhaustion, a stranger grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to his feet, saying, “You did it, man, you did it.” Mr. Polakowski stumbled on."

    apparently the NYT didn't understand the meaning of electrocution

  28. Posted by K F P | December 10, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    But a true champion, face to face with his darkest hour, will do whatever it takes to rise above. A man fights, and fights, and then fights some more. Because surrender is death, and death is for pussies.

  29. Posted by Michael | December 10, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    I thought the first rule was to never talk about it!

  30. Posted by WSOB | December 10, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    They're nihilists, Donny. They're harmless.
    – W.Sobchak

  31. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Full disclosure: I signed up for this last week
    – 1st year analyst afraid of getting pudgy

  32. Posted by PermaGuestII | December 10, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    Actual, normal, male outdoor activities:
    -Grilling things (on charcoal)
    -Serious yard work involving tools and/or machinery that can cause grevious bodily harm and/or death

    Outdoor activities only engaged in by insecure douchebags who talk to reporters:
    -Pseudo-military endurance races
    -Any sort of activity that with the exception of an 18 hour flight to a place where people do not speak English is no different than something that could be done in New Hampshire or Northern Michigan ("Brent and Kirsten had an amazing time trekking through the New Guinea rain forest!")

  33. Posted by PermaGuestII | December 10, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    That mindset worked wonders for the Japanese Empire.

  34. Posted by William Henry Gates | December 10, 2012 at 4:57 PM


  35. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    Other than the triathlon comment i concur.

    – Guy who cut 2 cords of wood, by hand, last week.

  36. Posted by PIK_Toggle | December 10, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    I believe that you are referring to this:

  37. Posted by Turnip Truck | December 10, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    "founders of these tough-guy races are intimately familiar with that primal urge"

    Getting intimate with the primal urges of other men…sounds about right.

  38. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 5:20 PM

    If they're so hard, they would be able to withstand being electrocuted by Liam Neeson like in Taken.

    -Trader who, not for nothing, respects someone who was/is in the military infinitely more than someone acting like they were merely because they survived the infamous Ball Shrinker.

  39. Posted by Bejujular | December 10, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Untimed tough guy events with ~80% completion rates are the NKI?

  40. Posted by ABL | December 10, 2012 at 5:38 PM


  41. Posted by Marcus Luttrell | December 10, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    Just don’t get it…

    – Every vet who has ever served a day in his/her life

  42. Posted by Done Deal Firm Deal! | December 10, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    Back when paintball events became popular team building events, a lot of guys would spend weekends doing that sort of bullshit. Meanwhile, their wives were known use their husbands' team building forays as an excuse to have a "girls night out" with highschool football coaches or traders who didn't go paint-balling. Uglies were bumped.

  43. Posted by Guest | December 10, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    I'm having trouble getting back to the home screen on Win 8; Please advise.

  44. Posted by Mrs_Slocombe | December 10, 2012 at 7:19 PM

    I can see the type: not so successful douchebags who spent to much time in the high school chess club and participating in circle jerks. The last thing I want to do after grinding it out all week is to roll around in the mud with a bunch of testosterone-jacked dudes. These clowns need to get drink, a woman, and stop pretending that being a faux-weekend warrior is anything more than a pathetic excuse for being horribly mediocre in their jobs.

  45. Posted by Buboe | December 10, 2012 at 10:06 PM

    Perma, normally I'm a big fan of your work.
    But the New Guinea rainforest is not the same as New Hampshire.
    Unless New Hampshire has lots of unexploded ordnance, cannibals and leeches the size of your hand?
    I dunno, but it didn't seem to in Cider House Rules….

  46. Posted by Marcus Luttrell | December 10, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    I just don't get it.

    – Every Veteran who spent one day on active duty

  47. Posted by Aging Fat Guy | December 10, 2012 at 11:03 PM

    Face your fear of fat, and still get the better of the muscular beta-males — now that's the real challenge.

  48. Posted by PermaGuestII | December 11, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    One word: blackflies.

  49. Posted by guest | December 11, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    " a small man with a bald head "

    describes everyone I work with who does tough mudder