Leaping Burning Hay Bales At This Weekend's First 'Tough Mudder' Race

Loved this story from today’s New York Times. Take two former prep-school buddies a little bored with their 20s and create a one-day adventure race.

Who’d buy it?

Lots of people:

But on Sunday, the Brooklyn-based Tough Mudder will conduct a race for 4,500 people. Each has paid up to $100 for the privilege of negotiating a seven-mile obstacle course of muddy hills, cold water and flaming bales of straw at a ski resort near Allentown, Pa.

Tough Mudder has six employees and two interns, all in their 20s. It has plans for three more races around the country this year and about 10 in 2011, some projected to have as many as 20,000 participants. It announced itself with little more than $8,000 worth of Facebook advertising and a Web site (toughmudder.com), relying on the extrapolative power of social networking to generate an enthusiastic following. Tough Mudder has about 11,000 fans on Facebook and has attracted potential buyers…

Sunday’s race will feature long slogs up ski slopes, wades through mud bogs, crawls through corrugated pipes and under barbed wire, climbs over vertical walls, traverses on rope bridges and a drop from a plank into a cold pond. The finish line is through a ring of fire — next to the free beer, near the live band.

There is no prize money, and contestants are not timed. The idea of Tough Mudder is not really to win, but to finish. And to have a story to tell.

I love the spirit of this! It’s so defiantly and unrepentantly British — the goofy, have-fun, who-cares-if-you-win vibe that’s so rare in razor-elbowed America, where people are desperate to compete for everything, and win, even through the public humiliation of televised weight loss.

I’m not in good enough shape for this first event, but I’d love to sign up for November.

Britain's Largest Theme Park Bans Too-Sexy Speedos — Still Compulsory in France.

Badpak uit 1921 / Bathing suite, 1921
Image by Nationaal Archief via Flickr

If you’ve never seen a guy wearing Speedos — or been that guy — it’s a sight you don’t easily forget, one I was…um…first exposed to as a 14-year-old lifeguard in Toronto. They’re so tight, skimpy and clingy, we used to joke you could tell a guy’s religion from across the pool.

Now Alton Towers, billed as Britain’s largest theme park and family fun resort, has banned men in Speedos, the suit invented in 1914 in Australia. Apparently the sight of too-large men in too-small trunks is scaring the kiddies. Even one men’s fashion website sniffs that the thin nylon trunks, designed for speed, and the default choice of many competitive athletes, are all wrong for recreational male swimmers, offering zero style, albeit terrific support.

Meanwhile, bien sur, across the Channel, a man hoping to swim in any French public pool must wear Speedos for health reasons, the argument being someone wearing shorts possibly covered in sand, dirt or who knows what else would pollute the pool.

As summer starts to wane, I just thought we needed a really serious subject to think about today.

Tomorrow is J-Day: Money, Mentors and Where to Find Them