One evening, while out getting acquainted with the local expat scene in our little Hua Hin neighborhood, we met up with a particularly outgoing group of folks. Over beers, our new friends insisted that we join them for a run they participate in every week. They called it “The Hash” and seemed very surprised that we didn’t know what they were talking about. Most of our Hua Hin friends are of retirement age, so we assumed this Hua Hin Hash Run would be a safe and healthy way to spend an afternoon. Boy were we wrong.
A Quick History of Hashing, According to The Interwebs
Wikipedia, that trusted font of knowledge, says Hashing started just before WWII in Malaysia by a group of expats. They wanted a way to stay fit and work off their hangover from the weekend. So they invented a “game” similar to the traditional British racing game, Paper Chase.
A second group started in Singapore in the 1960s and, by the 1970s, could be found nearly all over the world. Now, there are over 2,000 groups worldwide including more than one in Antarctica.
We got a ride to the starting point from our new friends. It was about 30 minutes South of Hua Hin. We parked on some farmland and met a couple of people under a tree. We’ve done fun runs before, which usually start out at some sort of parking lot and involve a DJ getting people to dance and get psyched up beforehand. The Hua Hin Hash Run was nothing like those runs. This looked pretty low-key, just a bunch of friends hanging out in a field. We paid dues of 350 baht ($11) which paid for the run and endless beer… once we finished the run.
As we waited, more and more people arrived of varying ages and nationalities. There were around 25 people there. Most were European and retired, but there was another couple about our age from Canada and a large family with small children as well. Everyone was really nice right off the bat and immediately treated us like friends.
Once everyone arrived, we were told to circle up as per Hash tradition. The person in charge made some jokes then introduced us to “The Hare”. The Hare is the person who lays out the course for the week. This week’s hare led the circle and explained the rules.
From what we gathered, we would be running through the jungle without a distinct path. Instead, we needed to watch for piles of shredded paper that The Hare had set out for us earlier in the day. As long as we kept the piles of paper in sight and on our right, we would be fine… unless they were on the left…. or they were part of a false trail… or it was part of the temporary unmarked trail. This idea sounded like a lot of fun, but with a quick glance at the thickness of the forest, I was getting a little nervous.
As if the chances of getting lost or eaten in the jungle wasn’t bad enough, The Hare then warned us of the potential obstacles. He had set up two False Trails that went off in the wrong direction and then just ended. He also added a couple of Broken Trails requiring the first arrivers to find the continued trail, then leave a sign for everyone else.
Unplanned obstacles included barbed wire, broken glass, and at least one pack of wild dogs. This was on top of the spiders and red ants our Thai friends warned us about in the car. My confidence was getting weaker and weaker. I noticed Josh was going a bit pale despite the blistering heat.
Just Do It – Running the Hua Hin Hash Run
We set aside our worries, put on a brave face, and set off at a good run. It was pretty easy at first; we simply followed the runners in front of us along a dirt road. Then, the piles of paper turned off the road into some tall grass and the runners began to spread farther and farther apart. Pretty soon, Josh and I were on our own, weaving through the fields neighboring the roads. At least we couldn’t get too lost…
Until we did. We went completely the wrong way and ended up face to face with a large pack of dogs. Josh grabbed a stick and watched the dogs while I hunted for our next pile of paper. Thankfully, the last of the runners heard the dogs barking and came over to help. We got away from the dogs and they pointed us to the trail that went off into the jungle proper.
We were grateful that these runners stayed behind to walk/run with us for the rest of the way, because this Hua Hin hash run trail was insane. I had no idea where we were. We were walking through bushes, over rocks, and under fallen trees.
The Hare did a great job at describing the dangers of the trek. The packs of dogs were quite large and scary. They were truly wild and looked ready to bite intruders. The stacks of paper were sparse in places and difficult to follow. However, we ran into a few other things that I’d like to add to the list:
- Vines – The vines were super long and at least the width of my thumb. They would tangle around my ankles or once around my waist. I know they are harmless, but there is something really scary about being restricted so thoroughly in the middle of a jungle.
- Spiky Trees – We quickly got out of the habit of reaching for branches to assist with our balance. Many were covered with spikes that would rip at our skin and clothes. Josh ripped his hat and my shoes were covered in spines by the end of the race.
- Whip Scorpion – Go head, Google it. Someone found one of these on their leg!!!
Last, But Not Dead
Apparently, we were the last to finish the Hua Hin hash run. It hurt our pride a little bit to be some of the youngest and fittest in the group, and then arrive to see everyone else already rested and drinking at the finish line. They laughed and joked while Josh and I tried not to scream from our pent-up anxiety. We wiped at our scratches, bumps, and bruises, and grabbed a beer.
One of the sayings for the Harrier Hash House is that they are “drinkers with a running problem”. I know we shouldn’t make light of alcoholism, but the beer did help. We were quickly feeling good and mingling with the group. We may not have been particularly fast, but we did finish the run. The whole thing was an adventure. We hopped in a car with strangers, who took us to an unknown location, ran through the jungle, and came out alive…. it was f*cking amazing!
I can’t wait to add these hash runs to our travel activities as we travel the world. I’ve already found a group near us in our next city. All we need now are our nicknames, and we’ll be official Hashers!
Like it? Share it!