Running Can Be
Hard On Your Liver
By Terrie Clifford and Michael Velesz
As athletes, we all know that
running taxes your feet, your knees and sometimes
your head. A recent experience has proven it can also
be hard on your liver.
Those of you who know me, know
I like to take my running to extremes, witness my
participation in last year's JFK, 50-mile
ultramarathon/death march (it's really not that bad).
This month's extreme involved a "Hash"
which, it turns out, is not something you smoke or
search your teenager's rooms for.
Allow me to explain, to the
uninitiated. I was recently introduced to a world
wide "organization" known as the Hash House
Harriers. They describe themselves as a drinking club
with a running problem. They are in a comparison to a
disciplined running group, what Hell's Angels are to
the motorcycle police.
Last month, one of the local
chapters held a "Tri-hash-alon." Notice
that I didn't say it was a race, there was nothing
competitive about it. It was more like a Triathalon
organized by the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges.
The "competition" consisted of:
- A 200-yard float down the
Potomac on whatever craft was available. (One guy
used his dog.)
- A bicycle ride through 5
miles of trail cut by a Bushog.
- A 3-mile-run interrupted by a
clothed swim across a lake.
The Hashers mark their trails
through the rough with piles of flour, which when
mixed with water becomes paste. They also holler
"are you?" and "on on" quite a
Being a glutton for punishment
and a sucker for an open bar, I knew I was up to the
challenge when I first heard of the "event"
after a Saturday run.
I quickly began thinking of
ways to convince Terrie to join me in this little
excursion into running history, and as it turned out
did not have that hard of a time. So, on August 24th,
after running only 12 miles of the club's planned 18
miles for that day, Terrie and I ventured out to
Tarara Winery just outside of Leesburg, tropical
colored-inflatable rafts (bought that day at
Toys-r-us) in tow.
We quickly learned our first
Hashing lesson...Hashers are in a different time
zone. We needlessly risked several near-collisions to
get to the starting point on time. We arrived ten
minutes late, yet 45-minutes ahead of the start. The
hashers needed the interim time to wave their glasses
of beer and wine around and inquire casually whether
everyone had remembered to pay. Then, almost as an
afterthought everyone ambled down to the river to the
start. Suffice it to say, that Washington crossed the
Delaware with less fanfare. In time, we actually got
into the water, and floated the requisite 200 yards
down the Potomac. Upon emerging from the water, a few
of the Harriers were a just a little irratated to
learn that they had to climb a small hill to reach
the first beer/wine stop.
The second leg was a 4 to 5
mile mountain bike ride through the vineyards of the
Winery. Since we didn't have bikes, we ran this
distance while watching the bikers take wrong turns
and yell at each other like something from a Monty
Python movie. From our vantage point, the scenery of
the winery was breathtaking though, and this leg made
it worth the trip.
We were pleasantly surprised to
encounter a bona-fide water stop halfway through.
(Unless the Hashers had unwittingly performed some
bizarre ritual which was the exact opposite of
turning water into wine).
The final leg of the event was
a 2.5 - 3 mile "Hash" run up and down the
vineyard's hilly, rutted terrain. Near the end of the
hash, we came upon a small lake, and had the option
of either running around it, or going through it. In
true Harrier fashion, Terrie and I both shed our
shoes and socks, and jumped right in. We lost a
little time on the other side though, because Terrie
paused to dive off a float on the far shore and I
stopped to retrieve a Mickey Mouse swim toy which was
eluding a little girl. Our shoes, however made better
time than us, having been safely, and dryly,
transported around the lake. We jumped back in them
and we were back on the run in no time flat.
One mile past vineyard's
blackberry patch, the finish reared up. There, like a
mirage you imagine on the W&OD trail's out and
back runs, was plenty of ice-cold beer and wine
waiting for us. The beverages of choice were
supplemented by a "post-race" spread to
rival an Italian wedding. Which, we were warned, is
not typical of most post Hashes, but put on
especially to commemorate this first annual
During the post run
festivities, Terrie and I were bestowed with hash
names, forever revoking our "virgin" hash
status. Terrie was christened Sacred Blemish, due to
a strategically-placed mud stain on her shirt
garnered in a spill on the trail. My name was a
little more irreverent, and does not need to be
repeated here. This is after all a family
publication. All right, Sex on the Trail is what they
named me, my position is that they are guessing.
Basking in the glow of the
post-race cocktails, and the beauty of the winery, we
agreed that this "extreme" running event
had been worth it, but we can't speak for our livers,
since they were not talking to us. All in all, the
company was great and the event was a nice change of
pace. If you are so inclined, I'd suggest hooking up
with either the Mount Vernon or White
House Hash House Harriers, and
give hashing a chance. They had such a good time with
the Tri-hash-alon, they may do another one again
soon. In the mean time, there is a Red Dress Hash
scheduled for September 27th, everyone, and everyone,
I mean everyone wears a red dress. Last year some of
the women were upset because some of the guys out
dressed them. I personally can't wait to accesorize.