39 - On Hash

I found a website covering activities in the city and these included a running club. Those that know me well know this would be irresistible, and on discovering that the regular meeting point was as close as across the road from my apartment, I am now one of the most consistent attendees of that group. It meets Saturday morning for a lap or even two of the Lake (Xuan Wu Hu, 9300m) and then coffee and buns in the meeting place, a bakery cum coffee shop.

One of the early such meetings brought me into conversation with two runners who recommended the Hash, of which they are both regulars. So I went along at the next opportunity – they hold one per month with odd exceptions, so probably ten per year.

We collected at one of the big hotels in what I think of as the east of the city, a double bus ride away. At the time, that was adventure enough, although I now rate that point as within walking distance, being also just outside the smaller of the two ‘Olympic’ stadiums that the city includes. Some two dozen collected together and general introductions took place; I confess to leaning rather on the two I knew already, who were generous enough to introduce me pretty thoroughly. The pre-instruction included wearing something of the colours of the Korean flag, but there was pitifully little else (instruction, not clothing). Shortly after nine, we began by heading south and I soon found that (i) I am a good deal faster than the others (ii) I have done this before and (iii) I remember, now we’ve started, how it works.

Essays on Hashing

I do a lot of running, so it is not surprising I want to write about it. There is an element of selfishness to this, one which all whio run themselves will recognise. Your own story of a race is intense (to you) and you want to share it, even if others do not want to hear quite with the same intensity.
running essays include 1723326677142188,

Hashing and hill-walking essays include 396287101135192

Allied sports health include  5863112124163188204

Other sport; Rowing

The route is laid out in advance, where the length of temporal advantage given to the ‘hare’ defines whether this is a ‘dead’ route or a ‘live’ one. This was dead, having been set out the day before. Routes are A to A or A to B; this club much prefers the A to B style, where A is a recognisable landmark such as the hotel lobby and B is an hostelry suitable for the hungry, sweaty hordes. The route markers are blobs of flour, possibly wet flour: these are slapped on any suitable surface at reasonably short intervals, maybe every 100m but on this occasion, a lot less than that. On meeting a sign, one is supposed to shout “On, on”. I found this highly inappropriate in a city environment and much prefer hand signals. Those around me showed big voices and I only joined in when aware that I was well separated from the field.

Occasionally there are circles instead of blobs. The rules I found posted on the internet say these should be set round something, an easy task in the city; around a tree, a post, a pole or a manhole. When encountering a circle—a decision point—one shouts “Checking” and agrees rapidly with the other front runners (now known to me as FRBs) which way one is checking. Say I go left; the next guy stops at the circle, looks to see what choices there are, how far away the next person behind is and when he knows the circle is seen, sets off in another direction. After two blobs (“On One”, “On Two”, or, better, just the numbers) there is either a cross or other marker indicating a false trail, or there is the hoped for third blob (“On, on”). By this time there may be a collection of hashers at the circle, milling around, not listening, or whatever, so the front guys often have to go back to explain that they have found the route. Some generous soul breaks the circle in the required direction for those who have yet to arrive (sometimes adding a pointing arrow with available material, such as chalk, stones or sticks), and the pack sets off in pursuit of the front-running bastard (FRB) who is still shouting “On-on” faintly in the distance.

So much for the idea. In practice as demonstrated on this occasion the hare’s efforts are countered by traffic, by cleaning the street and because there are dozens of other reasons for putting white marks all over the city. I misread a white square as being a flour dot and thereafter stuck a finger and tested by taste. There are obvious changes to make – coloured chalk in the flour, poster paint, shapes and icons come to mind without effort.

The route was brilliant, taking us through areas of the city one would never otherwise traffic: long narrow alleys barely wide enough for a single car, hundreds of metres of open fronted shops akin to garages, selling the amazing variety of wares that one becomes accustomed to here; occasional crossings of wide thoroughfares (usually this meant some of us had a clue to where we were in the wider feel for the city), distractions from losing the route – they all added to the flavour of the hash¹. At what felt like 10km I found we had arrived at the recently opened Irish bar, where the 100RMB we had paid over included a pause while we all caught up (technically, a Regroup) and drinks galore. The last little bit took us to a metro station not far away and thence to the wall by ‘my’ lake, where a short meander took us to an eating house.

Enough, you’d think. No, now we discover what the rules are and pay the penalty for not knowing them. As with almost all pub drinking games, I do not find this amusing or funny. I do not think it is entertaining and I class it as bullying of the sort that is perpetuated at public schools so very easily, while all too often escalating the degree of discomfort exacted. These are called ‘down-downs’, and I’m afraid my lack of amusement colours my feeling of the misuse of the language, since the other labels are generally quite clever. The MC for the drinking phase is called the Religious Advisor (or some such) and he picks on people—deserving or not—for infringement of the rules. I am pretty sure some of these are dreamt up at the time to make him feel important, but there may be a longer history to this. The down-down is a small drink to be downed in one at the end of some belittling chanting by everyone else. To date, the down-downs have been for all virgins (which includes non-virgins visiting China), for arriving late, for using ones mobile phone, for not complying with the dress code, for mis-reading a marker (that hurt), bringing an umbrella. I expect there will be penalty for trying too hard, getting too far in front of the pack, for not shouting on-on loud enough, for failing to go back to mark a circle (decision point). Certainly there are extra penalties for accepting one’s fate but starting the drink too soon. They add up, so I didn’t go back for three or four months in disgust.

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This weekend’s hash was prepared by the lady who introduced me to the hash in the first place, it was sited on ’my’ mountain and it was probably going to finish across the road. So if I was going to try again, this was the obvious choice. During the week before (mid-February) we hit 20º on the Wednesday and the run that day was back to singlet and shorts. Today, in contrast, began at about 3º, hit a top of 7º, promises snow tonight and a few centimetres of rain fell last night and during the day. Those that didn’t turn up will have down-downs the next time they attend. The course was everything I had hoped and I had a really good time running uphill and down, chasing all the false trails and even enjoying shouting on-on – because being out in the trees I felt less intrusive than I had to the residents whose houses we were running past in the city depths. I recognised many of the trails (I run on the mountain on Sundays, usually), although the rain washed a few flour marks away.

The ceremony after went relatively well, probably because the person penalised the most was the religious advisor himself. He doubles as the back marker in a selfless way and clearly is required to somehow know the route. Thus it would appear that the hash officers (the ‘mismanagement’) actually work quite hard.

And the food was plentiful – I stuffed myself happily.

Enough: bed is calling.

DJS 20090215

Related stories: Hashing Two, Trail Running, Sports Day, Running Factors

The hash in Nanjing was visited thereafter as often as I could manage, often in the company of NFLS staff. I came to know several people by name (both hash name and civilian name) and to be recognised as ‘a runner’. Cynthia, who joined in the most, was happy being among the 30% or so Chinese, but usually ran rather than walk – for the hash often caters for the walkers and runners separately. Several of the hashers were also runners, some were found in the Triathlon and some were found in the NIS choir I subsequently joined.

The next best Hash was on an island in the river met a pig, bananas, various berries and a lot of farmland where the crop was taller than me.

The subsequent move to Guangdong made available the hash in Guangzhou. See A different Hash. Enough to say here that the GZ group makes the Nanjing lot look disciplined, civilised, polite and enthusiastic. Nanjing hashers are fair drinkers with a running habit; far too many of the GZ Hashers have a significant drinking habit and only a few are runners. On the other hand, they meet every weekend and on the full-moon; their hashes are generally too short to justify going (ever) again. I found the ‘circle’, which Nanjing held in the dining room for at worst 20 minutes, was held outside for nearer two hours. I did not enjoy the experience at all. 

But. By 2012, I have done a lot more hashing, including being the guy in the circle. Perhaps I did some growing up?


 1   Flavour not tasting of flour. The spirit of a hasher runs on beer.

© David Scoins 2017