“Sorry about being ignorant, but what in the world is a Hash run?” I asked Todd. Todd deflected to Lara to answer my question. She said, “Oh it’s so much fun! You run through woods, fields, cities, or whatever terrain is available, with a big group of people. There are false trails so one person has go investigate each fork in the road, and once you finish, everyone gets drunk and has a barbeque.”
I was intrigued, so I joined them the next morning at 0800 to embark on my first hash. Todd and I drove together, and after 40 minutes and 8 round abouts, we arrived at a park on the north coast of Mauritius. There were many people milling around the parking lot wearing running shoes, so we knew we were in the right place.
I learned that hash runs were created by the British Military in Malaysia in 1938 to sweat out the weekend. The runs took place on Monday and were based on the British paper chase, or “hare and hounds”. I didn’t known this until after the run, so the leadership positions made little sense to me.
We introduced ourselves to “The hare”, which was one of the leadership positions in the club. Her name was Isabelle, and since it was almost Halloween, she was fittingly dressed as a rabbit. She gave us brief instructions, basically the trail is marked with small piles of flour. A big circle at an intersection means investigate every fork. Three dots in a row means you are on the right track. Two dots and a double white line means it is a false trail, so you must turn back. If you’re on the correct trail, yell, “on on” so everyone else knows that is the way. There were a few other instructions, but she noticed our puzzled faces and just said, “Stay behind someone and do what they do.” Those were all the instructions I needed.
The group swelled to 38 people, and we all paid 7 dollars (for the refreshments at the end) and set off. There were 8-10 runners, and the rest walkers. I ran with Lara since we were going 4-5 miles and I rarely run more than two – I needed a pace car. It turned out, this mother of three was in phenomenal shape and pushed me the entire run. Her career was with the army training our troops in Colorado. I felt her trainees pain. We soon separated from the pack with another runner with the trail name “More Beer”. Regular Hashers get “baptized” and anointed with a trail name.
Since most of the intersections had three paths, we usually were the three investigators. I found the right path on the second intersection, which put me well ahead of everyone, but my next several attempts ended with false trails. We were running through neighborhoods, dry fields, and roads, and it was dusty. I soon found myself back with the walkers, and had to run hard to catch up to my friends, a task made harder by the scorching noon sun. Eventually, it was me, Lara, More Beer and a Frenchman cruising down the road, enjoying the beach neighborhood scenery. We made it to the “hash house”, which was a hut with cold water and soda where you are meant to wait for the rest of the Hashers. It was on the edge of a cemetery and had a stunning view of the ocean. We did not listen well to the instructions, and after ten minutes, we asked if we could continue. The “Grandmaster” said sure, so we skirted a cemetery and followed a path down to the beach.
I ended up in front, which meant I ignored the main instruction Isabelle gave me. Sure enough, I stopped seeing the white dots and was on a very narrow path that bordered the ocean. We had to time sprints across stretches where waves crashed across the path but drained away while the next wave approached. Eventually we took our shoes off and waded through knee deep water to reach a beautiful, wide white sand beach, where we ran along massive sandbags placed there to prevent erosion. The beach was crowded with sun bathers on holiday looking at us, confused by the large group of ragged people with red faces, running with shoes in their hands.
More Beer and I finished together, and were instantly handed refreshments. I quit drinking in Cocos Keeling for a health experiment, but I did not see any other options available, so I accepted a shandy type beer. It was not phenomenal, so after nursing it for as bit as the others finished, I noticed other people with cokes and sprite. Although I don’t drink soda either, I decided it was the lessor off the two evils and soon was riding a sugar high.
Once every one finished, the party continued with snacks circulating, and of course, more beverages. Then, we formed a large circle and the most entertaining part of the run commenced. Isabelle started shaming people for various infractions. For example, she brought two people into the circle and said, “Most people, when they turn into a parking lot, they hit their turn indicator. These people said ‘screw that’ and used their windshield wipers instead (as anyone driving on the wrong side of the road can relate to).” Then, Isabelle gave them each a mug of beer. The group started singing a hashing/drinking song and counted down from ten. The song goes, Here’s to ____, he’s true blue, He’s a hasher, Through and through, He’s a pisspot, So they say, Tried to go to heaven, But he went the other way, Drink it down, down, down, ten, nine… and the accused chug their beers. When the group reached zero, the drinker had to hold the cup over their head and deal with the consequences if they did not finish.
This ritual continued for about 10 people with infractions including ignoring the instructions, wearing shorts with holes in them, forgetting to register for the run and having the trail name More Beer. We were in stitches the whole time. Isabelle was more of a stand up comedian than anything else. Eventually, Todd and I decided to return to the marina for lunch, and said goodbye to our new friends. I recommend hashing for any runners who enjoy a social atmosphere, and it was the highlight of my trip to Mauritius.