Hash running was a popular activity at Butterworth. I tried it – once. It was a memorable experience.
The idea is simple. First, find a suitable location – in this case a rubber plantation. A trail is marked out by the organisers. At Butterworth toilet paper was used for this purpose. Then the competitors follow the paper trail to the finish line.
There is, however, an in-built obstacle. Every so often there is a break in the trail and so runners fan out to find the next section, which may in fact be a decoy. Whoever finds the start of the new section alerts the group by calling ‘on, on’ and then everyone gives chase. It is so planned that everyone has a chance of winning as the swiftest is not assured victory.
I have never been the athletic type. As a runner I am better described as a plodder. Still, I didn’t let that dissuade me when invited to a hash run in late 1971. After all, a bit of a run through the jungle could only help my fitness and there was the promise of refreshments at the end.
So, after work one day, I climbed into the rear of a truck along with a group of other enthusiastic Hash House Harriers for my new adventure. All went well for a while. I plodded along the trail and continued to pick up the new trail for a while with everyone else. But then it happened – as we spread out to find the new trail I went in the wrong direction. I heard the cry of ‘on, on’ and headed towards the sound but by the time I re-joined the trail I was on my own. Not to worry, I could continue to follow the trail and listen for the ‘on, ons’ up ahead. But by the time I got to the next break everyone else had found the new start and headed off. So there I was in the middle of a rubber plantation alone, trying to find the next section of the trail.
One clear memory I have is running down a steep hill with the sun sinking slowly in the Western sky. I glanced down only to see a rather large hole where I was about to place my foot. As I adjusted my step I lost balance and reached out to tree to steady myself only to see this vine wrapped around the tree with rather nasty looking spikes pointing upward. To this day I don’t want to imagine what might have happened if my hand had slid down that vine.
Fortunately I did not fall. By this time the ‘on, ons’ were no longer heard. With no other living soul in sight I began to imagine what it might be like to spend the night alone in a Malaysian rubber plantation and what living creatures there may have been to threaten my very existence. But there was nothing to worry about because I finally staggered across the finishing line, just as everyone was packing up after exhausting the supply of beer.
Now the main objective of the Hash run was to work up a thirst. And at that point I could see no point in going through the thirst raising part of the exercise if there was nothing at the end to quench the thirst with. So I made the decision then and there that after a day’s work in the tropical heat I had already done enough to work up a thirst and I did not need to risk life and limb to quench it.