If You See Me Running...
I hate running. I’m the person who, if you see me running fast in any direction, you should join me because I’m being chased by bears or aliens, or possibly readers mad at me for killing their favorite character in a book.
While I get the appeal (not really), I simply cannot do it. Even before my body was irrevocably altered by carrying and birthing three increasingly large humans, I didn’t like it. And I do like to exercise. I like bikes, both on the road and the cycling to nowhere while someone fitter than me hollers at me to “dig in!” kind. I love boxing. I enjoy yoga and the HIIT kind of workouts that leave everyone wishing they were anywhere in the world but where they are at that moment (see: “ok now it’s time for a million burpees!”)
Running though? Not a fan.
Despite this insistence, a few years ago I joined a running club.
The drinking kind, mind you, but a serious running club none the less. Beer and Running Is A Thing, as you might imagine, since there are some who claim that drinking a beer after running is better for you than water. This is been mostly debunked or at least walked back to a more “well, it’s not worse for you anyways so why not,” level. Which is not unlike claiming that a salad with bacon, eggs, and heavy dressing is no worse for you than a slice of pepperoni pizza.
But for many of the popular beer and running groups, it has been absorbed as gospel. There’s even one—The Fishtown Beer Runners in Philadelphia—that ends all of its group runs with a simple toast “To the professor,” ostensibly to the professor who authored the original beer-is-better-than-water study.
I think we can all agree that, ever since the advent of modern civil engineering and water treatment, the whole drink-booze-not-water movement is defunct. However, that has not stopped groups like those Fishtown people and a whole slew of others from enjoying their beer after a many times long and arduous dash around the city, or the mountains, or the parks, or the lake, or on the beach—you get the idea.
There are locally based, specialized ones all over the country, with super clever names, rules, traditions and other nonsense built around the concept of running and then imbibing. The one that has the best name in my opinion is in Chesapeake, Virginia. The Big Ugly Running Posse is a brewery-based group which works because the brewery’s name is the Big Ugly Brewing Company and their acronym is (yes) BURP. RunTOBeer is in Toronto, naturally. The Sloppy Moose Running Club is a dog-friendly one in Sacramento, California. The Flying Irish Running Club is Spokane has no real rhyme or reason with their name other than that they claim “We didn’t invent running, social runs, post-run cold beverages, or even being Irish but we are the biggest and the best and we Run Spokane.” I don’t know if being Irish is a pre-requisite but a quick look at their massively popular Facebook page indicates it is not.
The Big Boss Running Club in Raleigh, North Carolina’s motto is “no pain, no beer,” which makes a lot of sense. The Pioneer Beer Runners (yes) PBR for short are in Western Massachusetts, they run between local breweries on a regular basis. There really are countless localized ones throughout the U.S. all with a similar goal: enjoy the run, then enjoy the brew.
There are also more famous ones that are national or even international, some of them serious, some not so much, but all of them made up of hard core runners and drinkers. The Dirtbag Runners is a national group and are of the trail running, ultra-marathoning mindset who like to camp and run and seem to be mostly located in places like Yosemite and Reyes Creek. Running for Brews began in Florida in 2010 and today has 25 locations where they have weekly runs as well as plenty of charity running events, or themed runs. The Mikkeller Running Club was founded by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, creator and owner of Mikkeller, who is a former competitive runner who earned scholarships in the US and set some Danish track records. In case you don’t know, Mikkeller is a brewery that started in Denmark by Mr. Bjergsø that now has 20 some locations all over the world. And they have a running club because as we all know, the Vikings loved running.
But Liz, you ask, what fun club is nearby that I can join to run and quaff?
That’s easy. We have an active chapter of one of the most well-known groups: The Hash House Harriers. Founded in 1938 “On on!” as we say when we are In the Know about such things, claims to be the oldest “drinking group with a running problem” as well as the largest non-competitive running group in the world. The traditions surrounding it are, in a word, complex. In several words: can be intimidating. But the folks I met while participating every now and again were some of the most fun I’ve ever met. They are for the most part big time runners. Many of them are ultra-marathoners, ex-military, or other types of super fit types. And when I say they can put away some booze, I mean it in the most earnest possible way.
The name, as well as the verb that they created called “hashing” is said to come from a particular race that British soldiers and other expats would do while in Malyasia in the 1930s called “hare and hounds” where runners pretended to chase a rabbit then had booze and cigarettes when they were finished. The original Hash House was an actual place, the Selangor Club Annex in the then Federated States of Malaysia, and got its name because the term “hash” was British slang for “bad food.”
Here's how a hash works: A group of runners (aka pack of hounds) looks for clues (dashes of flour or chalk marks) on the ground to indicate the correct path. These clues are left by designated runners called hares. Here's the thing though: There are also misleading signs that lead to a dead end. In other words, nobody knows where the trail goes and someone will get lost at some point, especially because there are typically adult beverages pre-hash, at the halfway point and post-hash, where you sing songs from your hash hymnal that you most definitely would not want your kids to hear (Oh, did I mention that this is truly an adults-only club? Leave the kiddos behind when you hash, lest you be stuck explaining why the leader of your group only answers to the name Wet Spot or Scottish Fingercuffs.)
The number of things I learned and people I met during my brief but wholly entertaining time with the local group about the songs, hash names (that must be earned), directional signs on the trail, and other stuff would fill a book. Suffice it to say, there is a distinct edge of naughtiness to the names and songs and general attitude, along with an unrivaled sense of fun at every hash. If you are a runner at any level, or a walker, or anyone who’d love to find a group of like-minded folks who take their drinking as seriously as their running. And if you’re not averse to being labeled “just Liz (your name)” while you are a hash virgin and until your name is proposed a few hashes in—usually after you do something so monumentally stupid or clumsy or embarrassing that your name becomes obvious to everyone, then you should join up.
I was a member of the Motown Ann Arbor Hash House Harriers and will likely find a one here in My New City of Greenville, SC very soon. Because, why not?
For this week’s review, I’ve got somethings to say about this book:
Woman of Light is a story about a lot of things, not the least a history of Denver, Colorado. The story of that part of the country--overrun as Americans moved west, building train tracks out to wherever they might dig something valuable out of the ground--is as sad as it is interesting. Telling the tale through the eyes of a young woman coming into her own life as a mixed race orphan whose beloved brother was run out of town by the family of a white woman he fell in love with (and impregnated) is an excellent device that brings out the best and the worst of the times they reflect. Luz is at loose ends after her brother Diego gets beaten to a pulp by his girlfriend's brothers. She has little money, and few prospects until she gets hired at a local law firm to do office work. Thing is, the lawyer there, David Tikas, while good at his job prosecuting the killers of another young Mexican man, isn't so great at keeping his hands to himself. Luz struggles with a lot of things--money, relationships, the demands of her cousin's upcoming wedding--but her name means "light" and that shines through as she comes to the conclusion that while she might be physically drawn to older man David, and be emotionally charmed by her local suitor Avel, she doesn't need either of them to feel fulfilled. Woman of Light is Magical Realism lite but more importantly, it's lush, sensory storytelling -- so much so that you can practically smell the air in the poor areas of Denver where Luz and her family live, taste the food they eat and feel the rough pine floors of their houses against your feet. While it provides yet another sad history of white people taking what wasn't theirs and punishing anyone who wasn't white, it also proves the power of family bonds and love in the face of daily adversity. It's a great book for anyone interested in the history of Denver, the stories of the native peoples in that part of the country, and in the story of a young woman who experiences her family's history in way that at first seems strange and scary but later gives her the strength to survive. 4.5 stars Releases June 7 from Random House.