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Monday, December 13, 2010

Hash Addiction

Normally I don’t blog back to back but I made an exception today.

Remember in the other bloggies, I said that expats are weird?  The event on Monday night proved it to me FOREVER.

I lucked out and received an invite to a running group called the Hash.  Now, I had heard snippets of about the Hash group but I hadn’t had the time to go.  In Hawai'i, I heard tales of a running group that ran for a mile, then drank a pint of beer, then ran another mile etc...for about ten miles.  I believe that these urban legends were trying to explain the Hash.

After some miscommunication about the location of the Hash, I was off in my truck, zooming through the streets of Honiara, wearing my stinky workout clothes.  Along the way, I got heaps of hoots and hollers from the local boys; apparently they aren't too used to seeing a girl drive a truck alone. 

Finally I roll up near the beach with Marco.  A crowd has assembled amongst stakka four wheel drive trucks and utes.  All are wearing athletic gear, many are wearing hash t-shirts.  There are a few kids and adults of various ages and sizes. I walk up, the last to arrive, hoping to understand what this hashing business is all about.

The Hash Hound Harriers is an organization of long standing and fine tradition.  It started in December 1938, in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.  It started as a way for members to “get rid of the excesses of the weekend” e.g. a hangover cure.  The race aspect of hashing is that someone starts off as a hare and everyone else are the hounds and we have to give chase.  The hare’s trail is determined by markings; typically paper.  In this case, it was shredded paper resembling snow.

The run starts off fairly easy and I keep up okay; it had been about four months since my last run.  The heat doesn’t bother me too much at first but within five minutes I’m covered in sweat.  My new flatmate, Tessa, runs beside me; unfortunately for me, Tessa has run five marathons and totally outpaces me.

After about ten minutes, my calves are burning, I'm sweating buckets and completely out of breath. I decide to give up the run and go with the walkers. As I head back, the tail end Charlie person of the group, a guy with a huge grey beard, screams at me that the entire running group is going the wrong way and I have to run back to tell them.  I make chase, screaming that they had to go back; finally the runners believe me.  By then, the walking group was well and truly ahead of me and I was stuck running a six kilometer run.

The run itself was an adventure; over small trails, through villages, running behind people’s houses, over rickety bridges and along the road.  The villagers were very friendly, helping us find our way.  Many of the young men joined us and the children laughed and ran with us part of the way.  One little girl, wearing a pink t-shirt and a black skirt, keeps up with me and Marco the whole way, running fast and laughing.

I was at the end of the group, chugging along and Marco joined me, not wanting me to run alone.  About halfway through, I was pretty thirsty.  We passed a coconut stand and bought two coconuts, walking while we drank deeply.  Coconut water is fantastic; it’s like a sports drink without all the sugar.  When we finished, we chucked the used coconut into the bush and started running, faster and stronger than before.

We ran through a palm oil plantation; huge palm trees created a canopy over our heads.  Finally we got to the beach.  The water was completely smooth, like a lake and the sun was setting beautiful behind the mountains and the sand was golden.  It was very scenic but exhausting to run through. 

We finally arrived to the Hash area, where I was inducted to the Hash organization.  The Hash circle was formed and the organization was explained to me a bit more.

The Constitution of the Hash House Harriers is recorded on a club registration card dated 1950:
  • ·         To promote physical fitness among our 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

For many expats, like those in Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s the only way to get outside the compounds and run safely in numbers.

In the circle, they offered us a beer. Beer is an important part of the Hash; on many Hash events there are beer stops at certain points.  Members often describe their group as "a drinking club with a running problem but the Honiara group is family friendly and no one gets too pissed.  New members are forced to drink beer as quickly as possible (although you can ask for soda).

Everyone gets in a circle, and funny songs are sung and people are humiliated.  It’s all very British and all in good fun.  

We end the Hash evening with a meal at Taj Mahal; the premier Indian restaurant of Honiara and suck down curry and lime drinks.

I get home, happy, sweaty and full of Indian food, looking forward to my next Hash event.