Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 30, 2009 - Langkawi, Malaysia

When Elaine and Allan off of Chatelaine invited us to join us for a hash, I got pretty excited. Then Elaine explained that a hash was a social run, rather than a bowl of something brown and sticky and hallucinogenic, I was a bit less excited. Running in this heat seemed a little crazy. But when Elaine and Allan described their local chapter of the Hash House Harriers as a "drinking club with a running problem," I once again became intrigued. The Langkawi Beach hashers each pay 30 RM (or $8) to get a little exercise and eat and drink all evening, which is a bargain in anyone's books. Sten, who loves a deal and has less of an aversion to physical exercise than I do, was all for it. And once Elaine promised that I didn't have to run, I was willing to give it a go.

The Hash House Harriers were founded back in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by a bunch of Brits who meet for a run on Monday nights as a way to purge their systems of the toxins built up by a weekend of heavy drinking. One of the guys (the hare) would run ahead of the others, marking a trail for them to follow. The pack following behind would shout and blow horns as they gave chase. False trails abounded, to slow down the front runners who would have to double back. A perfect hash would result in everyone finishing at the same time. When the harriers arrived at the finish circle, they would be rewarded with beer and cigarettes. The Brits seemed to be having so much fun that the idea caught on, and now there over 2,000 HHH kennels (as the local HHH groups are known) all over the world.

On Friday night we joined the Langkawi Beach kennel for their 406th hash. The run was a blast. The trail took us through some of Langkawi's tropical scenery, which we wouldn't have otherwise had a chance to explore. Some of the hashers ran, others jogged, and several walked the whole route. It was a bit of a scavenger hunt as had to spot little piles of flour that marked which direction we were to go. Discussing the marks and trying to find the true trail added both a social aspect and a bit of intellectual challenge to the run.

Check out that beer pounding technique - forward lean, dribbling vast quantities of awful, cheap beer out around the mouth of the glass - good to see that my college education didn't go to waste!
As hash virgins, Sten and I were called into the circle at the end of the run. We were each handed tall glasses of beer. The hashers began singing. When they reached a certain refrain in the song involving "down-down-down-down" we were told to drink. As we tried to finish our beers before the song ended, we were baptized with freezing water from the ice chests as we tried to finish our beers. It was quite refreshing, actually. Sten only made the one visit to the circle, but I was called back in twice more: once for wearing inappropriate headgear at the circle (my sunglasses were perched atop my head) and once for having shoddy footwear (my very old sneakers came apart during the run). My detaching soles became so floppy that Sten and I stopped halfway through and he helped me rip them off. I thought my soleless sneakers made a fine pair of racing flats, but the Grand Master felt otherwise.

At the end of the circle, when all hash business had been taken care of, the location for dinner was announced - Fat Momma's on the other side of the island. Since Sten and I hadn't had a chance to explore any of the island other than Kuah, we were thrilled with the opportunity to check out the resort area. The food at Fat Momma's was terrific and the harriers were a really fun group. All in all, it was a great night. But I'm pretty sure that after the open bar, my body had a few more toxins in it than before the run, which may have violated the HHH founders' intent somewhat.

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