White line fever
British-inspired pasttime gives new meaning to 'making a beer run'

So you think you’ve conquered the gnarliest physical feats Snowdown has to offer, contorting your limbs into an overstuffed outhouse, taking a cream pie in the face and ski joring ‘til your arms hung like limp noodles? Well, before you hang up your conga shoes for another year, the slightly twisted minds at Snowdown announce a new entry in the endurance and debauchery department: the first official Snowdown Hash House Run.

Despite a name that may indicate otherwise, the pastime of hashing involves nothing illegal – just runners, or “harriers,” and an occasional cold adult beverage, said event planner Matt Kelly. The harriers are broken down into two groups: the “hares,” a select group of ringers that leaves a 3-5-mile trail of flour for the rest of the runners, or “hounds,” to follow. The concept is simple: the hounds follow the trail left by the hares to a locale where merriment and jocularity ensues. However, as is the case with most travel adventures, getting there is another story – and half, if not all, of the fun.

“We call ourselves a drinking club with a running problem,” Kelly said. “It’s a fun-loving, irreverent group.”

According to Kelly, almost anything is free game in a typical hash course, including hill, dale, forest, chainlink fence, shopping malls and even an occasional water hazard.

“I won’t promise that they won’t cross the river,” he said.

The challenge is further confounded by false trails left by masochistic hares in an effort to throw off the pack. All of this is advantageous to the hares, who despite a 15 minute headstart, sometimes get caught, quite literally, with their pants down.

“All kinds of nasty things happen to the hares if they’re caught,” he said.

As if the prospect of public humiliation for their peers isn’t enough, the hounds also are spurred on by one of the oldest incentives known to humankind: beer. According to Kelly, beer is hidden along the hash course and marked by a “BN” for “beer near.”

“It makes ’em run harder and faster to get to the beer,” he said.

And while the sport does involve speed, Kelly said being the first to finish is not the point of a hash. In fact, it behooves slower hounds to hang back, letting the FRBs, or front-running bastards as they’re called, do all the work.

“It probably helps not to be a runner,” he said. “That way you let everyone else run ahead and go down all the false trails. They end up exhausting themselves, and this benefits the slower runners.”

He also said hashes are split into ability categories, with longer, steeper and more difficult “Eagle Trails” for the more hard-core runners and shorter, easier “Turkey Trails” for the less inclined runners.

Although this will be the first official Snowdown Hash, Kelly said an unofficial one was held at last year’s event. It was put on by Kelly and a group of locals with the help of about 40 members of a Front Range hash group. He said between 60 and 70 hashers participated in last year’s run, and that he expects similar crowds at this year’s hash, a series of three runs.

Kelly said last year’s event was such a success that afterward, he and his rag tag group were branded an official hash club, one of 13 in the state.

“We’re pretty loosely organized,” he said. “Hashes only happen when someone gets inspired.”

Nevertheless, the pastime has gained a solid foothold elsewhere, with more than 1,500 hash groups holding regular runs worldwide, according to the World Hash House Harriers, the closest thing to a governing body the sport has. According to the group, the rudimentary roots of hashing go back possibly as far as the activity of running itself. However, today’s format follows that of an enterprising English ex-patriate who organized a hash in Malaysia in 1938. The group took its name from the sub-par offerings of the Royal Selangor Club (hash house is slang for “cheap restaurant”), where many expatriate Brits would dine. According to the World Hash House Web site, the weekly runs were followed by copious amounts of the local brew, Tiger beer.

Today, the sport has earned a cult-like following in the United States, operating for the most part under the radar screen of mainstream society (although one group in Wichita, Kans., gained notoriety when flour used in a hash was mistaken for anthrax). In fact, many veteran hashers go by their well-earned hash names, which usually stem from an incident on the hash trail. The pseudonyms, which range from “Bone Ranger” (a local hasher) to “Poopatrooper” and “Aqua Lungs” (use your imagination) are used to protect hashers from their alter-egos, Kelly said.

“Most are professionals,” he said. “The names started as a way to hide your identity.”

Nevertheless, Kelly insists hashing is something that almost anybody with a sense of humor and a pair of running shoes can appreciate.

“It’s a noncompetitive event,” he said. “You don’t even have to be a runner. It’s all for fun and drinking. And you don’t even have to drink to enjoy it 85 but it helps.”









News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index