I found THE coolest running club!

I read about it in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners. Then I had to go and look it up to see whether there was anything like it in my area. And there is! So now I’m both nervous and excited to try it out. I don’t want to go alone though so if ANYONE in Toronto wants to try it out with me, send me an email at vanessaruns@gmail.com.

The group is called “Hash House Harriers,” and group members call themselves Hashers. They refer to themselves as “drinkers with a running problem.”

The basic idea is to get together once in a while for some exercise and a beer. According to the Chicken Soup story, this is what they do:

Everyone stood in a circle and they took an empty beer bottle and spun it in the center of the group. It landed on one gentleman who took a large bag filled with flour and started running, leaving large dollops on the ground behind him. We waited a couple of minutes and did the silliest warm-up exercise I’ve ever seen before we took off as a pack and chased down the man with the flour.

Catching up to him first, he thrust the bag in my hand, pointed me in a direction and said, “Go, you’ve got a three-minute head start!”

I stood there with a blank look and told him that I hadn’t a clue what to do. He replied, “Run, and don’t forget to leave flour behind you! You’ve got 2 minutes and 45 seconds!”

And that was it. I bolted into the reeds, frantically dropping flour behind me. There was a hiking path through the wetlands but I don’t really remember using much of it. What I do remember is the thrill of being chased, the freedom of creating my own path and the exhilaration of hearing a dozen whistles blowing with yells of “On-On!” from the other side of a large thicket. Eventually someone caught up to me and I was relieved of my flour burden, once again the hound and not the hare. I was hooked.

The writer, Jeff Hoyt, says that members adopt insane names like Reverend Right Hand and Hunka Hunka. He also says he took one year to travel the world and nine times out of ten, there were Hashers in the towns he visited. Running with them gave him the experience of seeing countries and cities and landscapes through the eyes of a runner:

Forested hills in Switzerland, ancient castle ruins in Germany and Scotland, rice fields in Thailand, rural villages in Cambodia, the barrios of the Philippines. Then later you drink local beer in local bars, surrounded by people who may not always speak your language, but understand the language of a good drink. It was the time of my life and one I’ll never forget.

There’s only one glaring problem: I don’t drink. It’s not a health choice, I just don’t like the taste. Although for this.. I just might consider taking it up.