Reston Runners
August 1, 1997

Running Can be Hard on Your Liver


Running Can Be Hard On Your Liver

Reston Runners
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 bit.

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 Tri-Hash-Alon.

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.

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