With an office, a gym, and a test lab, DTBK-based Tough Mudder gets down and dirty so that you can, too
Headquartered in Downtown Brooklyn, Tough Mudder puts participants' mental and physical strength to the test in races all over the world.
May 01, 2019
Did you know that Tough Mudder has a full gym in its office at 15 MetroTech, in Downtown Brooklyn? It’s fully kitted out in the company’s orange and black, and has gymnastics rings, monkey bars, hand weights, cones, stationary bikes, climbing ropes, boxes to jump onto, and even taller boxes to jump even higher onto. On the walls are the company’s motto: “COURAGE, PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT, TEAMWORK.”
Tough Mudder’s product is at once simply an obstacle course to complete and more precisely a method to test your will. The obstacles can include plunging into an ice bath and submerging oneself beneath a board over the center, and crawling through the mud beneath a mesh of electrical wires that will give you a modest electrical shock if you touch them.
How did one of the most interesting and fun companies come to Downtown Brooklyn? We talked with the company’s president, Kyle McLaughlin, to find out.
DBP: How long have you been in Brooklyn?
KM: Tough Mudder was founded in Brooklyn. We were in DUMBO for the first couple of years, 2009-2013, and shifted up here when the company outgrew its small loft space. We moved into this office in late 2013, and have been here ever since.
DBP: Have you done a Tough Mudder?
KM: A few. It’s kind of part of the job.
DBP: They seem… hard.
KM: Tough Mudder is an interesting fable. We are quite approachable for people at all levels of fitness and ability. The Tough Mudder 5k product, which has no obstacles, you could do it with no training, come out with your friends, all the way up to our 24-hour World’s Toughest Mudder Challenge, which goes throughout the night and it is one of the most grueling endurance challenges in the world.
DBP: Have you been surprised at how quickly it’s grown? Not only Tough Mudder, but now there’s a lot of similar companies that have really tapped into the zeitgeist.
KM: We like to think of them imitators. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? We tapped into something that everybody in the market was looking for.
DBP: Which was what?
KM: Well, I’ve been part of the running world for a long time and runners are getting tired of the traditional go and pound out some miles on a course and drink water from a cup on the side of the road, and hit up a port-a-potty and that was the entirety of your experience. People are looking for something deeper, something more. I think the unique thing here is it’s not about time and it’s not about competition it’s about conquering things that you didn’t think were possible. So we build and design a lot of our experiences in a way that you can’t do them by yourself, you have to do as part of a team. When you go off on that starting line it probably fills a void that we need a little bit more of in our world, a sense of camaraderie and the ability to meet new people on same shared pursuit that you have, and doing it in an environment where you’re letting down your guard, you’re being vulnerable, everyone’s just covered in mud.
DBP: What was the rationale for coming to Downtown Brooklyn?
KM: The company started in Brooklyn, and our founders lived in Brooklyn, and it was important for them to keep Tough Mudder headquartered in a place where they thought they could attract creative talent - people who were interested in being a part of something new and fresh and edgy. Here we found a space that gave us the opportunity to do a lot of creative things – like have an obstacle course in the office. Downtown Brooklyn at the time, too, was really starting to grow and expand and we’ve been really excited to see the wealth of growth in the area. We’ve been really excited to see the new after-work options, and a lot of our employees live in the Downtown Brooklyn area and can walk or bike to work. Being a fitness-oriented company, that’s important to us.
DBP: What are some of the favorite after-work spots?
KM: Our team loves DeKalb Market Hall. How could you not? They love being able to pop in after work at Fortina down at DeKalb and even at Luciano’s downstairs at MetroTech to grab a drink or a beer, but the lunch spots that have opened recently have really been the greatest thing; Korilla and Cava and some of the others that have popped up in the last year or so.
DBP: Beyond the employees and talent base, how has being based in Brooklyn benefited the business?
KM: It certainly gives us great access to any number of things in terms of the ecosystem of media and advertising. People who work with us on the components of staging and marketing the Tough Mudder events are found here in Downtown Brooklyn or not too far from here, and it makes for a really easy commute, too. We’re able to attract staff and talent who live around here, but we’ve got people who are as far away as central Jersey and Upstate New York, and Downtown Brooklyn is easy to get to and a great spot to come to.
DBP: What’s your commute like?
KM: I live in New Jersey and go to the World Trade Center and take the subway down here. 30 minutes door to door for me.
DBP: And then you get to go back to all those trees.
KM: That’s frankly one of the things we like about MetroTech so much. The park-like atmosphere here gives us a nice opportunity to pop out in the summertime. Our team loves to sit in the courtyard on any given afternoon. We extended our WiFi enough that it reaches down to the courtyard, so they can access their files and do work from outside.
DBP: Is it hard to run such an international company, logistically?
KM: Not hard when people love the product so much. We don’t have to convince people to come out and try Tough Mudder and oftentimes the countries that we go to are countries that are so motivated and so inspired by what we do that they’re asking us to come and helping us get started. Tough Mudder Philippines is a great market for us, so are South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and all throughout Europe.
DBP: So what’s next for Tough Mudder? You are worldwide now - where do you go from here?
KM: The goal here is to stay fresh and stay relevant and as we continue to think about how we can fill the niche of what our consumers desire. People want experiences that are different, that push them out of their comfort zone and explore fitness in more dynamic and entertaining ways. So our focus this year is on refreshing our customer experience and developing a much bigger festival presence. We’re doing live music at all our events this year, so even if you don’t want to run you can still come out and enjoy the festival and have a really great time the same way you would at any music festival or food festival. We’re also expanding a bit internationally and continuing to chase that down.
Find out more about Tough Mudder training and events on their website.