ON ON WITH THE HARES AND HOUNDS; Meet the drinking club with a running problem!
IF you thought running clubs were all about serious Paula Radcliffe types in lycra, perhaps you haven't heard about hashing.
It's a worldwide network of non-competitive running, social and drinking clubs, the Hash House Harriers local chapter is based in Leamington.
Friendly and sociable, a hash lasts about an hour and follows an unpredictable cross country trail.
Describing themselves as "A Drinking Club with a Running problem!" The Spa Hash House Harriers meet on the third alternate Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings of each month.
A recent hash ran from The Poachers Retreat in Eastern Green, Coventry, and followed a route from the suburban housing area, into the countryside around Eastern Green, Allesley and Meriden.
The Spa Hash House Harriers (also known as Spa H3) were joined by a guest visitor, a member of London City Hash who had searched online for a hash near to his current work at the NEC.
The hash was hosted by the Spa H3's Grand Master Russell Spivey, who lives in Eastern Green, in honour of his birthday, with John "Pot Belly" Hannan as excellent co hare. They supplied Pimms, stashed in a hedge earlier in the evening at a halfway spot to the thirsty group; they also ate jelly in true birthday party style.
Russell said: "I only started hashing about three years ago but my rugby club mentality and sense of fun meant I fitted in straight away, you can be anywhere in the world and will most certainly find a hash nearby and will be welcomed with open arms . "Why not give it a try? Family and children (Horrors) on Sundays and adults over 18 on Thursdays. Just bring a sense of humour, open mind, some money for beer and, oh, running shoes or knitting needles depending on your athletic ability." The hash ended back at the Poachers Retreat with the traditional 'Down Down' of beer for everyone as a supposed punishment for breaking the rules, despite there being no rules at all.
Hashing is mixed sex and the runners, of all different ages and abilities are known as 'Hounds'.
Most are not members of running clubs and complete beginners who have only run for a bus are welcome.
The "hounds" chase a trail, usually marked with blobs of flour set by club members known as hares.
The end of a trail is always a pub where socialising includes beer and observing some of the quirky Hash House traditions such as hash naming - why be called John when you could be known as Pot Belly? The more colourful the Hash name the better.
Short cuts are allowed and the crafty hares also set fake trails. If you think you are being clever by second guessing the hares you may well find your false trail terminated, sending you backwards. The idea of a good trail is to try and keep the pack together so the "Front runners" are delayed by false trails and check backs while the "Knitting circle" at the back catches up. All runners are encouraged to shout "On On" when on trail so the rest of the pack knows where the trail is.
So if you see some badly dressed, often in silly headgear and colourful T-shirts, walking / jogging individuals looking down at the floor looking for flour shouting "On On" and sometimes hear the blare of a hunting horn you have probably come across a hash. Don't be scared they don't bite and are very sociable.