This weekend, I was officially introduced to the world of the international group known as Hash House Harriers, or as they describe themselves: a drinking club with a running problem.
Hashing was the best time I’ve ever had running!
So before I get too far, I guess I need to explain what Hashing is. Hashing follows thee basic rules of a Paper chase or the Hound and Hare game. The ‘hare’ starts off the run and creates a trail. He leaves powder or pieces of paper to mark the trail. He creates ‘checks’, or forks in the trail where he tries to throw the ‘hounds’ off the trail. A few minutes later all of the ‘hounds’ are released to chase the hare. They run trying to find the trail, most likely following a false trail and finding their way back to the ‘true trail’.
The major differentiator between hashing and a traditional paper chase is that the hashers LOVE TO DRINK! The chase is meant to be one big open social event. You exercise. You party. It’s awesome! Now, you don’t have to drink… but come prepared to DRANK! Don’t worry about the extra calories, you’ll burn them off.
Before I get to my hash recap, I want to give you 5 reasons you should stop what your doing, look up your local hash group, and sign up for the next run:
1. Mixes up your run.
Hashing isn’t just running on the street at a set pace like most of your runs. Hashing takes you off the beaten path: through fields, down abandoned streets, under overpasses, in drainage ditches, wherever the hare decides to take you, you go. Not only do you mix up the path, you mix up the pace. You may run for a while, stop to find the trail, or sprint to catch up to the rest of the pack. I definitely used some running muscles that hadn’t been worked in a while.
2. Discover your city
I’ve lived in my city for 6 years, yet I have never been to 95% of the places I ran during my hash. Discovering new places while your running is a little different than driving by places. You’re in the place experiencing it as opposed to driving by and observing it from the outside. Since your running in all directions, you get turned around pretty easily, which brings on some extra excitement when you realize where you are after pushing your way through a wall of brush and overgrowth.
3. It’s like college for grownups
If your in the same boat as me, you have a real job, a wife, kids, responsibility, you probably sometimes long for the days when you were in high school or college; the days you went out with your buddies and drank beer and told dirty jokes and didn’t have many cares. In one night, I satisfied all my yearnings for college days of yore. My wife and I got a babysitter, and went out and had a blast. Between the bars, the house parties, and the fun people, it was like reliving the best parts of college. Just for a night, I could revert back to my 21 year old self, and have 40 other people in the same boat.
4. Age and Fitness don’t mean a thing!
The way the run is set up, you can be out of shape (within reason) and still keep up. The trail can be run or walked, so no worries if you aren’t a runner. In fact, the walkers sometimes do better because they can fall back and let the runners run all over the place trying to find the trail. In the hash I went to, there was men and women ages 21 – 60, weighing anywhere from 100 to 300 pounds. We all walked across the finish line within minutes of each other. The only thing everyone had in common, was were were wanting to have fun.
5. We all need a little bit of ritual
At the end of the trail, we all joined together in a circle to thank the hare for the greta trail, to properly introduce all the new hashers (by making them drink a beer), to welcome or welcome back hashers from other places (by making them drink a beer), to call out the people that didn’t come in costume (by making them drink a beer), and to tease the people who wore new shoes (by making them drink a beer… out of their new shoes). While it is definitely an alcohol heavy event, the important part was to open up, meet new people, and have a great time.
WARNING: I will admit, hashing is probably not for you if you are easily offended. Some of the jokes, rituals, etc. are in what some might consider poor taste. But I say, open up your mind, join in, and you will have a great time.
My Hash Recap
My first hash was with the Rocket Shitty Hash House Harriers on their 250th hash. They teamed up with a local running group, the Dixie Daredevils, to raise money for the American Cancer Society (Running, Drinking, and Philanthropy?!). For the big event they set up a pub run, which is a hash that starts, has multiple pit stops, and ends at different bars along the trail.
This hash took place in downtown Huntsville, AL and followed a course that went about 4.5 miles (not including the false trails). We started off at a bar called the Furniture Factory for our “Pre-Lube”. I admit, I was a little nervous going into the run. I’ve had a little practice drinking and running, but 5 miles and four beer stops, could I handle it? You bet I could!
Luckily, we were able to find a last minute babysitter, and my wife came with me. I had invited another couple we are friends with and they met us there as well. He had done some hashing in Nashville, which was good because I had already had beer when they were giving the hash instructions. I introduced myself as Just George, since it was my first hash and I haven’t earned a hash name yet (each hasher has a special hash name that is given to them by the group).
So after a group picture, the blessing of the hare, and another beer, the hash had started. The first leg was a little confusing. I didn’t know all the rules, so I just followed the pack, but I stayed too close to the front runner, because we got way off course and had to make our way back to the larger pack, you had found the right way to go. The sun was still out, and the temp was around 90, so it was a hot run. I’m glad I’ve been training in the heat, because I was doing much better than some other people. The first path took us over some train tracks, under some underpasses, and across parking lots.
After about a mile, we stopped at a bar called Leanne’s for some refreshments. That’s where the picture at the top of the page was taken. As soon as we walked in, we had bottles handed to us. I nice cool beer had never tasted as good as it did after a mile in the hot sun. My wife even drank one, and she’s not a beer person. I drank one beer for me, and half of my wifes beer and we were off again!
I though it would be bad running with so much beer on the stomach, but to be honest, I never even noticed it. I was amazed how it didn’t affect my running at all. The next leg was around 2.5 miles. The course got harder at this point. We went down old road that have grown over, through fields that needed to be mowed, across a drainage ditch that we had to climb down into (and up out of), through an old mill campus, and finally to some bar that I’ve never heard of. Well at that bar, this was waiting:
So after two more beers and some good conversations, we went off on the last leg of the run. I would have to say the last leg was the hardest. It had gotten cooler since the sun had gone down, but that caused a new problem: it was dark. We were warned to bring flashlights, so we were at least a little prepared. During the last phase, the trail took us through some broken fences, a field that had grass, weeds and shrubs waist high, followed by some ditches that were hard to see. I’m glad I had my Vibrams on and was light on my feet, there were a few times the ground wasn’t shaped the way I expected when I landed.
After a few lost trails, we finally made it to an open gate that led to someones back yard where tiki torches, coolers of beer, and many boxes of pizza were waiting for us. After everyone flowed in and had a chance to relax and enjoy a refreshing beverage, they started the circle.
The circle started by thanking the hare for the great trail (which it was great). They then announced all of the named hashers and welcomed back any that had missed a few hashes. They then introduced all of the virgin hashers and hashers that were visiting from out of town. Of course all of these thanks, announcements, and introductions came with a beer for each of them to chug. Of course, the lucky ones were special enough to dring out of the sacred vessel (yes I realize what it is).
The best part of the night was that the Dixie Daredevils met their $15,000 goal to run the Hood to Coast relay in california for the American Cancer Society. Those girls were super cool and knew how to have a good time. Very proud of them.
For anyone that is interested, my beer tab looked like this (I drank shitty beer on purpose): Pabst Blue Ribbon, Coors * 1.5, Bud Light * 1.5, Keystone Light (my broke college days favorite), and a Bud Light Yuengling mixture out of the sacred vessel.
After a little too much beer and a lot of fun, we decided to get back to the real world and head home (babysitter was paid by the hour ). Luckily I woke up the next mornign feeling great, which was an extra, unexpected bonus!
I had a blast. My wife had a blast. Our friends had a blast. I’m so glad we all went, and I will definitely be back at the next hash.
Have you ever gone hashing? Tell me about your experience.