Chapel Hill News
January 28, 1998

Hash Run Not an Easy Feat


Hash run not an easy feat

Runners from around state come to Chapel Hill for race that tests runners' cooperation - and their livers.

The Chapel Hill News
January 28, 1998

By Patrick O'Neill, Correspondent

CHAPEL HILL - A steady, chilly drizzle was falling last Saturday afternoon. It was a perfect day to be indoors.

The miserable conditions, however, seemed almost inviting to the odd looking, hardy bunch of almost 50 people, many of whom were dressed in running shorts, gathered in front of the Morehead Planetarium readying themselves for a unique running/drinking experience.

A few minutes after 3 p.m., Dr. Luke Lucas, a University of North Carolina medical school professor, gives the rowdy group some instructions. Lucas is the "hare" of today's Tar Heel Hash House Harriers run, an event that combines running, orienteering and, most importantly, beer drinking.

Lucas, a hashing veteran, laid Sunday's trail, a most difficult run that will take the pack (harriers) over hill and dale, through various pricy Chapel Hill neighborhoods and all over the UNC campus - including the parking garage below Davis Library.

"Our objective is to give people a chance to have fun and get lost," Lucas said. "The general spirit of this thing is to make sure everybody's tired when they get back and has worked up a thirst for beer. That's the definition of a hash."

In truth, definitions of a hash abound. "A drinking club with a running problem," is what Jim Rider (a.k.a. Topsail Gospel) likes to call the hash. Rider is a veteran of close to 1,000 hash runs.

In truth, the hash is difficult to sum up in a sentence or two. Imagine the worst aspects of Animal House, the 1970s John Belushi movie about a college fraternity, and combine that with runners who get drunk and sing very badly as a group.

After his instructions, the group takes off running. Two women have brought their dogs on the hash. Lukas and Bill Vann have laid a trail in advance. The pack heads through campus following a trail that's marked by small dollups of flour. When the pack reaches a large X [it means checkpoint] on the trail the "true trail" is no longer straight ahead.

"Once you get to a check there could be any or many trails leading in different directions from there," Lucas said. "Only one is the correct trail, however."

At each check point, runners usually cooperate and head off in several directions to find the true trail. This makes life more pleasant for the slower runners who can reap the benefits of the faster runners who usually find the correct trail through trial and error and do so just as the slower runners catch up.

When the true trail is found, runners yell, "on-on" to alert the pack. The local hash is comprised mostly of runners connected to the Godiva Track Club, a local club with members from Orange and Durham counties. Many hashers have what's known as a hash name, an alias that is usually disparaging. The hash name is usually given after the hasher tells his or her "most embarrassing moment" story.

On Sunday, the Tar Heel Hash played host to a group of about a dozen hashers who have driven 90 miles from Fayetteville. The Fayetteville group, who go by the name "Carolina Trash," is perhaps the state's most infamous group. Raunchy and rowdy, the Fayetteville Trashers epitomize political incorrectness and exhibit a complete disregard for social mores and common decency. And they're proud of it.

Just ask Lisa Michaels (a.k.a. Dicktaphone). Michaels, a student and single mother with two children, says it's typical in Fayetteville for the hares to sit on bags of ice with their bare behinds exposed to the cold while being serenaded by fellow hashers.

The hares just "pull their pants down a little bit," Michaels said. "You don't have to. There's no pressure to do that of course." Oh sure.

Michaels said the Trashers are "like a dysfunctional family." And the name Dicktatphone?

"I talk a lot and the Hash enjoys the double-entendre," Michaels said. Also a member of the Carolina Trash is UNC student Pat Shields (a.k.a. Teats de Swamp). Shields proudly tells the story of how she got her name. One day she spotted the pack on the other side of a swampy field and she pulled up her shirt and flashed them. For about 90 minutes the hash course takes runners on a tour of town that is quite unusual. When the trail passes in the area of the UNC Tennis Center, the runners find themselves sinking in mud, jumping rocky creeks and plodding in several inches of cold water, conditions that Gene Casale (Mutant Gene) calls "shiggy."

A research scientist who has a Ph.D. from UNC, Casale has been hashing locally for more than 10 years. Casale, a fast runner, can be counted on to find the true trail after a check point. On Sunday, Casale didn't mind climbing muddy embankments in search of flour dollops.

"The goal of the hash is to get back to the end and drink the beer that you brought," Casale said. "I will not miss hashes if I'm in town. It's too much fun."

Casale said he especially appreciates the cooperative aspect of hashing, not a common occurrence in other running venues. When he spots some runners taking a shortcut to the true trail, Casale yells: "Short-cutting bastards."

The Tar Heel Hash was founded in 1982 by Durham's Paul Naylor (a.k.a. Major Major), a former Army officer who brought the hash with him from Washington, D.C.

Naylor said the first hash was founded in 1937 in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, by British ex-patriots who would drink all weekend and run on Mondays to get back into shape.

"They found that running wasn't so much fun so they added the old hare and hounds game," Naylor said. "The mess hall was called the hash house, a place where they sling hash."

Naylor said he doesn't leave home without his international hash directory so he can join hashes when he's visiting other cities. Like many of the Tar Heel Hashers, Naylor frequently joins the Sir Walter Hash in Raleigh.

"There are hundreds and hundreds of hash chapters all over the world," Naylor said.

At a water stop about an hour into the run, the hashers form a large circle in a field and sing an obscene song that is loaded with sexually explicit language that is accompanied by hand gestures and body movements. It's not for shrinking violets.

When the hash finally ends back at Morehead Planetarium, participants are muddy, soaking wet and ready to head for the Henderson Street Bar & Grill, where the Fayetteville group leads the singing as participants do "down-downs." A down-down is when a hasher chugs a beer (while being serenaded of course) and pours whatever isn't chugged over his or her head.

Naylor said "the more intelligent and sedate group is the Tar Heel Hash." Uh-huh. "If you've got half a mind to run a hash, that's all it takes," Naylor said.

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