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HASH RUNS GIVE PEOPLE ACROSS THE GLOBE A CHANCE TO MEET, RUN AND DRINK

Hashing out the loneliness

DONALD Gautier, 43, was working at the Canadian High Commission in Sri Lanka's Colombo in the summer of 1996 when a colleague asked him if he liked running and drinking beer. After replying yes, he was taken deep into the sweltering jungle to join 40 other men for a run. They followed a paper trail through rice paddies and tried to avoid water buffaloes and snakes. When they finished the run two hours later, the time for cold beer had arrived.
The group formed a circle. After watching his fellow runners drink theirs in one go, it was Gautier's turn. But the group had a different idea in store for him. The leader of the run asked him how he had ended up in Sri Lanka. When Gautier answered that he issued visitor visas, they asked him if he ever issued multiple entry visas. "Of course," he replied.


FIRST the group meets...
photo: Zuzana Habšudová

DONALD Gautier, 43, was working at the Canadian High Commission in Sri Lanka's Colombo in the summer of 1996 when a colleague asked him if he liked running and drinking beer. After replying yes, he was taken deep into the sweltering jungle to join 40 other men for a run. They followed a paper trail through rice paddies and tried to avoid water buffaloes and snakes. When they finished the run two hours later, the time for cold beer had arrived.

The group formed a circle. After watching his fellow runners drink theirs in one go, it was Gautier's turn. But the group had a different idea in store for him. The leader of the run asked him how he had ended up in Sri Lanka. When Gautier answered that he issued visitor visas, they asked him if he ever issued multiple entry visas. "Of course," he replied.

His questioners then poured several bottles of beer over his head, and from that moment on, he was known to them by his new name - Multiple Entry.

Gautier had just been initiatied into the Hash tradition, which unites thousands of displaced runners around the globe for friendship and a little exercise.

Gautier joined a Hash club in Vienna in 1999, after moving to the Austrian capital to work for the Canadian government. Around the same time he also joined the Bratislava club, as the Slovak capital is just 60 kilometres from Vienna. The Vienna runners used to organise runs in Slovakia even before the Bratislava Hash Run was formed in 1994, drawn by the beautiful landscape and cheap prices.

"Hash is one of the easiest ways to meet new friends if you move, visit a new city, or just want to hang out with a new crowd," Gautier says. "No matter where you are in the world, you will likely find a Hash club in cities over 500,000.


THEN they run a bit ...
photo: Zuzana Habšudová

"And Slovakia must be one of the most beautiful places in the world to attend a Hash. The countryside consists of rolling hills leading up to high peaks near the Polish frontier, historic towns, very friendly people and low, low prices."

The original idea of the Hash Run was to mimic the 'Fox and Hounds' style chases that have been around for centuries. Instead of game, however, people chased each other along marked trails. Before becoming known as Hash Run, the sport was referred to as Paper Chase.

"Following WWII, a British Army fellow by the name of Gus retired to Italy and settled down near Bordighera. He was one of the original Hashers from Malaysia and decided to start his own chapter in 1947. From there the Hash slowly spread to other parts of Europe, and eventually reached America in the early 1970's. Today there are thousands of Hash clubs world-wide, on all seven continents including Antarctica," Gautier explains.

He adds that it started as a men's-only club, where guys could get away from their wives and meet once a week to run, drink beer and have a good laugh. Eventually, it became a mixed social club where both men and women could run, drink beer and have a good laugh.

Hash runs start with one Hasher marking a trail, which the others later follow. They either try to catch the runner ("Live Hare") or just get everyone to the finish together ("Dead Hare"). The latter form is more popular among the Bratislava Hashers, as it allows them more socialising and drinking opportunities.

"The Bratislava Hash is a more easy-going than the Vienna one, where people tend to take it more as a chase," says Erika Jasečková, the Bratislava Hash Grand Mistress. She first learned about Hash in Budapest, where she used to work and was looking for friends.


AND rehydration is the key.
photo: Zuzana Habšudová

While beer is the official drink of Hash rituals - "Beer is the chosen drink because with its high carbohydrate content and relatively low alcohol it provides long-term energy for sustained running efforts. Actually, that's nonsense; we drink it because it tastes great and gets us drunk," says Vienna's Ron Ledgerwood - Bratislava expats enriched the tradition by adding sips of Demänovka (a herb liquor) during breaks on the run.

Apart from running, socialising and practicing drinking rituals, people also get Hash nicknames. Most refer to a humorous incident or trait related to the Hasher.

"The terms are often offensive, sexually suggestive, obscene or otherwise unprintable in a family newspaper," says Ledgerwood, who was nicknamed Wankomat after finding himself without any money to pay admission to a Vienna ball.

"They named me Wankomat, wanker being an English slang term for a foolish or not-too-brilliant person."

With the Bratislava Hash averaging 15 participants per run but sometimes reaching 25, Jasečková says that people either hate or love Hash Runs.

"Only those who are a bit crazy, who like to meet others and have fun, stay with us. And since they are from all kinds of different countries, one can easily make friends across the globe," says Jasečková, or Viagra, who helped to resurrect the club in 2000.

What: May Hash Run
When: May 25 at 13:00.
Meeting Place: U Troch zajacov (The Three Rabbits) pub, Rača district in Bratislava.
How to get there: take tram #3, 5 or 11 from the city centre in the direction of Rača. Get off at the Detvianska stop, head up Detvianska Street around 200-300 metres to U troch Zajacov.

For more information on hashing or more detailed directions contact Erika Jasečková at 0903/224-099 or erika.jaseckova@targetfuture.com. You can also have a look at www.geocities.com/bratislava_hhh

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