Do you want to try hashing?

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5 October 2016 1:53PM

NICOLE REGAN is the Times & Star's running columnist.

Her chronicle of her journey from couch potato to (almost) athlete gets her all kinds of invites to events, but none as strange as this.

It is not a question you get every day. "Do you want to try hashing?"

Intriguing to say the least. It was obviously something to do with the running as the email began "We love your column...."

Flattery gets you everywhere with me and Elspeth Payne's invitation hit the target.

Elspeth is a member of Cockermouth Hash House Harriers. They've been going for 20 years and meet monthly at beauty spots across West Cumbria.

Hashing itself originated in Malaysia in 1938, when a group of British officers and ex-pats met on Mondays to rid themselves of the previous weekend's hangover.

Elspeth says one of its mottoes is that it is a "drinking club with a running problem".

The best way I can describe hashing is hound trailing for humans.

And I loved it.

'Hares' lay out a trail for the hashers, using blobs of flour, which you have to track.

When you get to a flour circle, that means there are several ways to go and checkers run out to see if they can find more blobs.

Three blobs means it's the right way.

The hares are sneaky, and lay false trails - using two blobs of flour - to send you off in the wrong direction.

Everyone has a "hash handle" and my compadres included MissDeameanor, Plum Tart and Weakender.

No one uses anyone else's real name. I think it's to protect the guilty.

I wanted to be Newshound, but your handle is bestowed on you, so I'll probably end up being called Snail or something.

It all adds another dimension to the hobby of running and lets you rack up the miles.

October's hash began in Rosthwaite and we met up on a beautiful sunny morning outside the village hall.

Elspeth had earlier sent me directions and an explanatory note: "Someone will explain the rules, but they usually lie.

"The hares this Sunday are Huggy and Slasher. Keep an eye on Huggy. He likes to immerse himself in water at any and every opportunity, all year round."

We began - the faster runners found the blobs of flour and we pelted down a country lane, dodging cyclists and dog walkers.

Then there was a blast of a horn (this is another great thing about it. My running coach Sam Ayers of BodyFit doesn't have a horn).

We'd gone the wrong way. So we regrouped and started again.

Now, I'm a road runner - oooh, possible hash handle there, I think - so when we started going off the road and onto paths at the bottom of the fells, my heart sank.

My trainers were not made for this kind of work and I didn't have the grip.

I certainly didn't have the grip when we started climbing a mountain.

Okay, it was a steep path up a lower fell. This is where my running mojo left me but it was fine as there were other walkers.

When we reached the flour circle in the heavens, everyone else was waiting.

I felt bad but was reassured by the others that it wasn't my presence that enforced the stoppage. This was what happened, they said.

Dirty Digger says: "It's great. It's like running but you get plenty of rest breaks while we wait for people to check possible paths."

Soon there was the shout of "On, on!" (the technical way checkers let everyone else know they've hit the right path) and we had to go back down the mountain.

This is the bit where Huggy became my hero. He held my hand when it got slippy and helped me over the rocky bits. I only fell once and that was over my own feet, rather than anything else.

I then fell out with Huggy as we reached a river with no visible crossing point.

I told them all they were insane as I was grabbed and marched across the river, which reached my knees.

Elspeth's warning was ringing in my ears.

It was an amazing morning out and one I would recommend to everyone to have a go at.

The hashers were extremely welcoming and it allowed me to explore bits of the Lake District I wouldn't have dreamed of doing by myself.

Will I do it again? Absolutely. I just hope I get a great name.......


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