Fancy giving Hash a go? No, not that kind of ‘hash’. We’re talking the running variety, where runners come together to follow a trail laid out by another member, usually using flour, sawdust or similar, often with dead ends and misleading signs to level the playing field between runners of different abilities. Hash fan Tony Reid tells us more about the sport and why it’s so appealing…
Setting the scene
It’s a warm April evening in a Hampshire village, and a crowd is forming outside the pub, mostly wearing technical tees, but a closer look shows it’s not a race crowd. One man’s tee declares him a ‘Mega Hare’ and others declare 500 runs, or commemorate attendance at the Nash Hash or Euro Hash. Some people have tees from the first run for this group, some 1,000 runs ago – one bearded chap has run 934 of these.
This is the R2D2 Hash House Harriers’ 1,000th run, and it’s a great mix of ages, from 70-something to 10 years old, and all have come to follow a trail laid in flour around the village of Stoke. The fast ones at the front will be distracted and slowed by false trails, and symbols instructing them to run to the back of the pack, so the slower ones get a chance to catch up.
After a quick briefing from the hares (trail layers) to inform newcomers, the group disperses to find the first blobs of flour to indicate the trail. I’m hanging back to save my daughter running extra miles. Sure enough, someone calls ‘on on!’ and we’re off, the hares putting down arrows to help any latecomers catch up.
The Hash run
It’s my 86th R2D2 hash since coming to Hampshire four years ago, and I’ve run them with other groups. It’s a great way to meet people, without the running club tendency to group everyone by pace. I’m getting to know Hampshire one village and pub at a time, as the location shifts every week, always within roughly a 20-mile radius of the Bourne Valley near Andover.
I’ve introduced every member of the family with varying degrees of success in that time. My 12-year-old son is now quick enough to be up near the front runners, while my 10-year-old daughter tends to walk/run and hang about near the back, enjoying the lack of pressure. They’re made very welcome; all a far cry from when hashing was devised in Kuala Lumpur in 1938 by a bunch of army officers looking to work off the excesses of colonial life!
As we climb the long straight path up Wallop Hill Down, the front runners pass us on the way back, having found a fish hook symbol, instructing the first six to go to the back of the pack, and within a mile and a half, we meet the first re-group symbol, where everyone waits for the hares to give the instruction – long trail (6.5 miles) and medium trail (4.5) to the right; short (3 and a bit miles) to the left. My dog knows which she prefers and tries to follow the long runners, but I’m mindful of the heat and my daughter, so 4.5 will do for us tonight.
Back to the pub
Arriving back at the pub, people are drifting back and hurriedly dressing. The short/medium/long trail set up and the delaying tactics for the front runners mean there’s nobody waiting too long for the rest, pre-ordered food is eaten in the pub, everyone pays their one pound fee and the circle is gathered round. Forfeits are handed out for various misdemeanours – half a bitter to be downed for the drinkers; a soft drink for the teetotallers.
I’m called up to take my punishment as apparently now it’s my fault there are so many dogs on the hash. This ceremony takes longer than usual, as we’ve been joined for our celebration by another local Bourne Valley Hash, whose master of ceremonies is notoriously long-winded. After this, and the traditional ‘on this day’ speech by the oldest member, the locations of all the forthcoming local hashers are announced, and it’s circle closed, back to the bar or off home.
We’re spoiled for choice, and could be hashing nearly every day of the week – R2D2 run every Thursday night, the Hursley Hash runs on Sunday, Worthy Winchester on Monday (and sometimes Friday) nights, Bourne Valley run on the first Tuesday of every month, and further afield, we have the Berkshire, Haunch of Venison, Southampton, Wessex…
If you fancy giving it a go, http://www.ukh3.org.uk/ has a directory for the UK and worldwide. There’s no joining fee, and a run is usually £1 or £2, with newcomers normally free.