Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hashing - An Experience Like No Other...

This has been the most difficult post to write since I started blogging. Just coming up with the words to describe what I experienced yesterday is only a part of my challenge. Fear of repercussion from some of the "Hashers" I met is another issue. I am not sure how much of a rule "What happens at (Hashing) stays at (Hashing)" is. From what I experienced, I kind of hope that is a rule. I will however attempt to describe my experience and hope that by keeping names and places vague I won't get Down-Downed if I ever go back. I would say that I would give fictitious names to protect people's privacy, but they already do that. And the names, well... I will describe those later. On the other hand, even with it having been such a bizarre experience, it kind of had a strange draw on me, and I think I want to give it another go sometime. I was reminded of my recent team's mantra ~ Life Begins When You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Oh. I was way outside my comfort zone for this adventure.

I think I should begin with a little history on Hashing before I tell you my story. It apparently all started in 1938 in what we now call Malaysia when a man named Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert (“G”) gathered a few of his buddies for what they termed a "paper chase", a sporting game in which one member of a team, the "Hare", is sent ahead and the pack follows the trail, chasing through woods, fields, thorns, brooks, "Shiggy", and hills. Back in those days, because Sir Gispert and his friends were meeting regularly they were considered a "group" by the law. This required them to have an official name and draft a "constitution" of laws that governed their organization.  They dubbed themselves the Hash House Harriers because the place that they frequently met was referred to as the "Hash House" due to its mediocre and monotonous food. After the excitement of the chase, they would return to the Hash House where they would be rewarded with liquor and cigarettes. The objectives of their club were: 
  • To promote physical fitness amongst members
  • To get rid of weekend hangovers
  • To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
  • To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel

The chase was used to promote "fitness" and the social aspect of drinking...thus many a Hash House adopted the club line that they were "a drinking club with a running problem." Over the years, the rules changed slightly but the groups are still seeped in tradition. One or two group members are dubbed the "Hare" and are given a 15 minute lead before the "Hounds" are let loose. It is the job of the Hare to lay trail and leave markings that either lead or mislead the Pack of Hounds. The trail often includes false trails, short cuts, dead ends, and splits. These features are designed to keep the pack together regardless of fitness level or running speed, as front-runners are forced to slow down to find the "true" trail, allowing stragglers to catch up. Beer remains an integral part of a Hash, though the balance between running and drinking differs between chapters, with some groups placing more focus on socializing and others on running.

The end of a trail is an opportunity to socialize, have a drink and observe any traditions of the individual chapter. When the Hash officially ends, many members may continue socializing at an On-After, On-Down or On-On-On, an event held at a nearby house, pub, or restaurant.
My Experience:

Going to a Hash was like stepping into another dimension. It definitely took me by surprise, as I had no idea what I was in store for when I was invited by a friend to attend an opportunity to go run  and "get dirty". That's all I had been told. Oh. And I was told there might be some drinking there. So I set off, address in hand, thinking I was going to some kind of Mud Run. I decided I must be a bit lost because the address that my GPS pulled up was nothing but a secluded dump on the side of the road, closed off with rusty iron gates and padlocks. I saw no one. I kept circling and eventually saw two cars pull into the small gravel lot on the side of the road. I couldn't decide what to do. My friends had not arrived, and these people...well....let's just say they were a bit different than me. I finally pulled in and asked the middle-aged muffin-topped bikini lady in pigtails if I was at the place where their was some kind of mud run. She asked me my Hash name. I looked at her blankly and said my name was Janie. She said "Just Janie? Who referred you?" By this time a man walked over. He looked to be a bit high and he was kind of weaving around erratically. They both were wearing mismatched knee high socks and had a bit of the "crazy" look in their eyes. I weakly said, "Anne?". She asked, "Just Anne?". I shook my head 'yes' as I couldn't think of anyone else that referred me. She then reassured me (?) that I was in the right place and asked me if I wanted a cold beer. I agreed, took the beer can (that smelled like an ashtray), rolled up my windows, locked my doors, and sat in the van while I texted Anne to make sure I was in the right place. I felt like I was being set up to be sacrificed or I was on MTV's "Punked". I texted her that I feared they were trying to loosen me up with alcohol so they could have their way with me. I didn't leave the van until she showed up.

It appeared that things were just going to go down down the weird slope fast, and there was going to be no normalcy from this point onward. People started trickling in. Most looked like they had being on the "fun" train a little too long and their bodies were paying the toll. I learned quickly that according to the rules, "Virgins" as newbies were called, had "Just" placed before their name. So I really was "Just Janie." If you were so lucky to have survived 5 or more races, you were given a nickname by the Pack. You could be so lucky as to have a name like "Atomic Dyke" or "Emergency Man Tool (EMT)" or "Fire in the Hole". And these were the tame ones. It seemed that the raunchier you were, the more accepted you were in this group. Most names were so vulgar (although pretty hysterical) I can't even write them on this blog. I quickly removed my old triathlon tech-shirt in fear I was going to be dubbed "Overachiever Bitch" as I was already catching flack for wearing it. It took me a minute to catch on to the workings of the group, and when the leader "Stray Dog" asked me if I was a Virgin, for the first time in my life I was proud to say I wasn't (almost pointing to my wedding ring) and then I realized he was referring to my Hash status. I quickly had to retract my answer and spout out what I had said for the first 21 years of my life. "Yes, I'm a Virgin."

"Chalk Time" was given by the "Hare" and the explanation of the trail markings were provided. Apparently the Hare leaves droppings of toilet paper, chalk, or flour to mark the trails (true and false paths). Examples of these markings are as follows:

Arrow: Directional guide, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on True Trail.
Beer Near: One of our favorite marks. You’re coming up on a beer stop!
Check: From here, the trail can go in 369° – don’t just stand there, go find TT! 3 dots after the check = TT
Dots: You’re on trail. 3 in a row, and you’re on True Trail (True Trail) – unless you’re on a false trail!
On-In: Congrats, you’re at the end of the trail! Drink Up!
True Trail: You’re on trail! Follow the arrow!
Whichy Way: Trail continues in one of the arrow directions. 1st dot after = On Trail.

False Trail: You’re at the end of a false trail. Go back to the last check.

In addition to these markings, occasionally we would see a YBFC (You Be F---ing Careful) chalked near four way roads or bridges where you could fall off and split your head open. Oh, and I don't recall signing any kind of liability release form, and got the feeling this event was not sanctioned by a governing body. I almost asked who gave us permission to use the land we were on, but decided ignorance might be best if the police came. Really, the land was probably the least of our worries if the police showed up.

Sorry, I digress. The Hare is sent off and while we wait the 15 minutes for her to set the trail, we hydrate with a beer. I still have the uneasy feeling I am about to be led out into the woods to be slaughtered, kind of like some weird fraternity hazing gone awry. Finally we are given the signal and are off to chase the Hare. Over woods, over dale, through the Shiggy (that was a new word for me) we go. When a Hound from our Pack would find the true trail you would hear them blow a whistle or yell "ON ON" to let the rest of the pack know which way to go. I learned the reason for the ugly soccer knee high socks was to help with the thorns, brambles, and chiggers. We slid up and down the muddy slopes of the river bank and pushed our way through the poison ivy laden hillsides. One member waded the brown Amite with no fear of snakes or critters...although he paid for this mistake later. I sweated and wheezed and realized that the adventure races I had been doing are for pansies. This was bush-wacking at its finest. Somehow the pack managed to cut short the course, missing the designated beer stop, and finding the Hare before finishing one or two loops of the trail. No one seemed bothered that it was over, as it just shortened the wait to drink beer and eat burgers.

After a quick dip in the river, everyone circled up for the ceremony (at this point I was pretty sure I was going to be sacrificed). Apparently the "Virgins" have to be sung to and then partake in a Down Down where one drinks a beer and whatever is left in the cup when they stop singing "Down Down Down Down" is poured onto your head...

Um, the songs...well ~ again I can't really write them. Most are sung to childhood tunes you know, but the words are way different. Like really not kid friendly. Or church friendly. Actually there were a lot of songs referencing... well, anyway. Use your imagination. The only one I can even post is the following, sung to the tune of "Sing, Sing out Loud":

Drink a beer,
Belch out loud,
Belch out clear,
Drink of good times, we run,
Drink of plenty, not one.....
Drink the brew,
Down it quickly, this beer we give to you,
Don't worry that it's not good enough,
For anyone else to down,
Just drink,
Drink the beer.....
Burp, burp, burp, burp, burp, etc...

Now, remember the Hound that jumped in the water? Well apparently he had a really bad allergy to something as his entire body swelled, turned red, and began to itch. His entire body. Like any good Pack would, they bathed him off in soapy water and gave him a beer to wash the Benadryl down down. He looked like the Incredible Hulk. Everywhere. If he didn't already have a nickname, I can only imagine what he would have been given. Just saying...

So, to summarize my first Hash... It was weird, bizarre, and far from the company I normally keep. But, it was fun. And, I might go back again, now that the scare factor is gone. Also, I am kinda curious as to what my nickname will be...

But for now, signing off... Just Janie


  1. TallBird (Stephanie)August 22, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    I did a Hash run 20 years ago in Okinawa, Japan and it was great! That group was made up of active duty Marines and their significant others. We ran through tropical forest, pineapple fields, and up rocky streams (helped up the rocks by hunky marine guys). I was a visitor; an exception was made and I was given the Hash name "Eye Baller". I've never been able to guzzle beer, so I had lots of it poured over my head. It was one of the coolest adventures I've had!

  2. Janie, thank heavens you practiced guzzling during Training Camp. See, you thought Coach was preparing you for SRITRI. The whole time has been training for this Hash run. Duh. I do want to hear more about the Incredible Hulk though...

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  4. COUG = Coolest Original Ultra Girl around! I bow before thee. I am beaming over your accomplishments. Thanks for showing us all how it gets DONE. Lizzard

  5. BIZARRE, "JJ"!! You sure are acquiring lots of new names these days!!