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.

Here's A Really Powerful Pad — Made Of Bananas — For African Girls

Harvard Business School
Harvard B-school insignia. Image via Wikipedia

For some African girls, a monthly period means missing work or school because she has no access to affordable sanitary pads.

A new initiative, led by 32-year-old Harvard MBA Elizabeth Scharpf, is fighting this loss of labor and educational freedom, using pads made from banana trees in Rwanda.

From Marie-Claire:

It’s not every Harvard Business School grad who puts her degree to use making sanitary pads out of banana trees. But that’s exactly what Elizabeth Scharpf is doing, as part of a new push to produce affordable sanitary supplies for women around the world.

“I was on a trip to Mozambique a few years ago when I heard that women were staying home from work because they couldn’t afford sanitary pads,” says Scharpf. “I was shocked. Then I was kind of outraged.” She later learned that the problem spans the globe. Let’s face it: Not every town in the world has an entire Walmart aisle devoted to tampons.

So Scharpf started looking for solutions. In 2007, she founded a nonprofit called SHE (Sustainable Health Enterprises), then began doing her homework. Recently the group launched its first project: helping women in Rwanda set up their own businesses manufacturing sanitary pads from banana-tree fibers. Why Rwanda? “There’s a real need there, and the country has the largest percentage of women in government in the world, so we knew we’d have support,” says Scharpf. Why banana trees? “Imported raw materials were driving up the price of pads, so we started looking into cheaper local options,” she says.