On Tuesday evening, I was standing on Wimbledon Common in a hi-viz jacket waiting for some club runners to appear when I had a short conversation with a passer-by. You know the sort.
“What’s going on?”
“Windmilers – it’s our turn to host the MABAC”
Nothing out of the ordinary, but as he wandered off, he said that his club had a run on the common the following day.
“Barnes Hash House Harriers”
“About 4 miles, but it’s a hash run, not a race”
“A hash run?”
“Someone goes ahead to mark the trail for the others to follow”
“Ah. Sounds fun.”
Shortly after this, the runners started arriving, and I went into marshal mode. As I was standing at a spot where the navigation was extremely obvious (I was there to allow the marshal before me to say “head for that marshal”), my role was basically to offer encouragement.
“Hang on in there”
“Enjoy the down”
“Go Patricia….I mean Francesca.” (Oops.)
“Go Simon” (Was that Simon? It looked like him. Oh well.)
“Nearly there” (Only kidding. I promise I didn’t say this.)
After I got home, I looked up Hash House Harriers on Google. Sure enough, there was a hash starting at The Crooked Billet at 8pm the following day. Following a trail laid out by someone sounded like fun. Turning up to run with a group of unknown runners with 75 years of hashing traditions behind them was a different matter.
I turned to Twitter for advice.
Decision made. I’d braved the track on Tuesday. I would brave the hash that night.
It was great fun. We followed chalk and/or flour arrows until we reached a chalk circle. At that point, the faster runners ran off in all directions to try to relocate the trail, giving the slower runners the chance to catch up. Once the new trail had been found, we’d set off again. The trail was a figure of eight around Wimbledon Common which used some of the smaller (more brambly) paths which I wouldn’t usually venture onto. There were enough breaks in the trail to keep the faster runners busy while the slower runners caught up and a there were a fair few false trails thrown in for good measure.
The group is kept together by call and response – if you get separated from the group for any reason you just head in the direction of the “On. On. On” calls – and the reward for making it to the end is beer. Lots and lots of beer. Beer and camaraderie.
Being an antisocial sort, I’ll confess to enjoying the running more than the reward, but it made for a very interesting evening and as there seem to be hashes pretty much every day of the week, I suspect that the next time my training plan calls for a 4-ish mile easy, I will probably be back.
On. On. On.