Virgins Take To Hash - Marathon Sessions In Chiang Mai

True to my as yet unsuspected ‘virgin’ Hash status, in complete innocence I turned up at the No. 1 Bar for the prearranged 4 pm meet, with my ancient New Balance running shoes ready for their first outing in years. Decades in fact. I should have known better of course. A Chiang Mai running club sponsored by a go-go club (Foxy Lady) and a bar with some of the city’s prettiest girls? – well, there had to be something odd about the whole shebang.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. (Click to see big pic)THE t-shirt - as modelled by a very pregnant lady...

A bit of background. It had been so long since I had done any serious fitness work, other than some half-hearted trips to the gym, I’d finally decided to do something about it. Some expat wag mentioned a club called the Chiang Mai Hash House Harriers. I phoned, got the details of the next run, and there I was; at the No. 1 Bar, raring to jog.

A song taew taxi turned up, and the three other ‘virgins’ squeezed – or should that be wheezed – in with me. No idea where we were going. It was a precarious trip. For some unknown reason there was a several cubic metres-thick, huge block of ice, roped to the tailgate. This made manoeuvring, with the wheels at the steering end almost lifting off the ground, rather dicey. Some heavy crates took up a large amount of space towards the middle of the bus, which helped to distribute the weight a little – so we had at least some front end traction when at speeds of under 20 mph. However we were late, and in a hurry.

We arrived in the middle of the jungle somewhere at least forty-five minutes from town, and piled out. Twenty of us, all told, carried to the spot in an odd mix of vehicles, including a somewhat incongruous, ancient left-hand drive Peugeot. The run sounded like a real challenge, with some peculiar rules, but hey - expats are a peculiar breed (little did I suspect just how peculiar). We set off at a fair pace. The Hash route included a large number of false trails, so you had to keep an ear open for various instructions from the ‘hound’ currently out in front - otherwise known as the ‘FRB’ (Front-Running B*st*rd) - such as “On-On!” (he has found the right trail), “Checking!” (doesn’t know if he’s on the right trail yet), “Looking!” (not a clue)… “On-Back!” (definitely a false trail). Covered in mud, mercifully leech-free, just after a miraculous escape from a scary swarm of aggressive hornets, I found myself at an unexpected ‘beer stop’. I passed on the beer, didn’t seem to fit the occasion (how wrong could I be).

The ‘hares’, who went by the strange nicknames of ‘Fag’ and ‘Grease Gorilla’, had laid out a dead trail – ie they weren’t running in front of the rest of us, the trail had been set a day or two before. It was a tough run – the beer bellies on most of the regulars were deceptive. They may not have been capable of offering Emil Zatopek much of a challenge, but they got there, eventually. As for me I was doing fine until I developed excruciating pain in the metatarsal region of each foot. I hobbled on. A huge relief to get back – stress fractures I reckoned – the same injuries that had put paid to my running ‘career’ before. I sat down (second mistake).

This was an all-male Hash. Co-ed Hashes happen on another day. We were in the middle of the jungle, halfway up a mountain, in a mosquito-infested shack. There was no escape. The heavy crates that had helped to keep the front wheels on the road from Chiang Mai proved to contain food and beer. Mostly beer. The block of ice was placed in the centre of the ‘circle’ of Hashers, and the fun began.

I'm fifth from the right, at the backMe, struggling to stand 5th from the right at the back. GM 'Fag' looking constipated in semi-crouch, front right. Crazy Irishman with two beer mugs in hand, seated, left. Standing rear left, Dutchman in need of driving lessons and new glasses. Thai song taew driver 'Bus Bitch', front, sitting on what's left of the ice after 5 hours of rapid meltdown from being sat on by large farang posteriors in the heat of the tropics ...

The regulars went by a strange assortment of names. I’ve already introduced Fag and Grease Gorilla. Also present were Butt Filler, Dyke Converter, Bus Bitch, Dog Sh*t, Anal Virgin, Turkish, Liberace… well, you get the picture. As first-timers and virgins, the pleasure of our baptisms would be for another Hash. Should I ever go back again…

English public schools and the funny hand shake brigade could learn a thing or two from Hash rituals. It was surreal. I was trapped in the Thai jungle with two broken feet and a bunch of mostly wrinkled gents whose sole goal for the next few hours seemed to be to get completely slaughtered while playing silly games in the equivalent of an adolescent male bonding session. The virgins were called into the ‘circle’ to introduce themselves... but first had to drop their trousers and sit down on the block of ice. Beers were handed out, “Down, Down!” cried those watching from around us in the circle.

A ‘spiritual adviser’ heard confessions, and summoned others into the circle to be punished for alleged transgressions. Including in my case that of not drinking beer at the beer stop, and sitting down after 'circle' had been called; amongst various other sins. Another virgin was called to task for the dreadful misdemeanour of wearing brand-spanking new trainers. Not that they looked too clever after an hour or more of running through jungle and bog. A German was accused of crimes against fashion (the exposure of too much body hair). All of which was accompanied by beer, song, and much more beer – often drunk from a bed pan, or more unmentionable appliances (I’ll leave that to readers’ imaginations). The choirmaster, a crazy Irishman, led his choirboys in various renditions of rugby songs. The villagers I’d spotted a mile away must have wondered what on earth was going on. Fortunately even the most accomplished English-speaking Thai in the north of Thailand wouldn’t have understood the words (not because of the Irishman’s accent). The evening dragged on… and on… and on…

The only Thai present was the bus driver (Bus Bitch). A diminutive man, a regular Hasher it seemed, he was not to be let off lightly. The beers were knocked back in quick succession. Given his size his alcohol to blood ratio must have been scarily high, so I tried to appraise the least risky alternative option for my lift home. Not much in it really.

What drives a group of expats into taking part in weekly jungle drinking meetings with exercise, while attempting to prove (very successfully) that they’d stopped growing up a decade or three back when still in their early teens? Googling (why the hell didn’t I do that before) later revealed that HHH, or H3, is of worldwide renown. And there I was naively thinking it was nothing more than a jogging club…

At last we were on our way back. I’d chosen a Dutch Hasher as chauffeur, for his relative state of sobriety. However despite his several years’ practice driving on the left-hand side of the road since leaving Holland, he seemed to have forgotten - with the steering wheel position on the right side of Thai cars, as in the UK – that the bulk of the vehicle was therefore situated to his left. We hit the kerb twice and narrowly missed ending up in a ditch on a couple of other occasions. He was also one of those drivers who was clearly incapable of driving and talking at the same time, drunk or sober. He liked to talk. We went through one red light at speed.

“On-ON!” was the ritualistic cry as we piled out near the No. 1. Bar. I groaned – it was not over yet. The Hashers and their muddy, sweaty bodies were apparently expected to continue the drinking into the small hours, care of the two sponsors, No. 1 Bar and Foxy Lady. The girls were going to love being grappled by this bunch of smelly and drunk farangs, I thought.

The pain in my feet was beyond agony. I could only shuffle forward about ten centimeters at a time, on my heels. Such a balancing act after countless beers was beyond me. Spotting a tuk-tuk I told the guys I would be right back for the remainder of the evening’s festivities, and departed. I didn’t make it to the drinking session part II. No doubt, should I ever venture on another Hash as a ‘returnee’, Kennel Grand Master ‘Fag’ will invent a whole series of humiliating punishments for me to undergo, following my shameful disappearing act. Broken feet are simply no excuse.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. (Click to see big pic)
Hash ‘kennel’ members have been described as drinkers with a running problem. As people attempting to run off the accumulated hangovers of the previous week, before starting over. So be warned, expats. If you’re looking for some serious fitness workouts, this may not be quite what you had in mind.

In their favour, they're a good-natured bunch. And if you like a beer or six and prefer to be honest to your spouse, you can state, hand on heart, that you're just going out for a marathon session...

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2 comments:

Hoo Don said...

With names like Fag,Grease Gorilla, Dog Sh*t,the hopefully not so quick and quietly panting Butt Filler chasing them,Roger Bannister would have broken the 3 minute mile,Paula Radcliffe would have had kittens not babies and Ben Johnson may have approached the starting blocks with eyes bulging,luminous green saliva hanging from his mouth and syringes buried deep into both arms.Loved the story, brilliantly written. Hope your feet get better soon.

FrogBlogger said...

LOL! (although it didn't seem so funny at the time).