Chicago Hash House Harriers Hare Guide
Now that you’ve run a few times with the Chicago Hash House Harriers, you’re probably starting to get the hang of how trails go. If you’re feeling particularly comfortable (or risky), it may be time for you to consider haring a trail of your own. Haring is a challenging and rewarding experience that adds a new and fun dimension to hashing, but it isn’t for everyone – some people enjoy haring a great deal, while others do not enjoy it at all. There’s only one way to be sure if you’ll enjoy haring or not, and that’s to try it for yourself. Lucky for you, the Chicago Hash House Harriers has some tips and tricks for you.
Step 1: Pick A Date
Look at the Hareline. This is a list of the upcoming dates on which we will be running and who is signed up to hare on those dates. Find an open date that works best for you and contact the Hare Razor (Silent But Deadly) to claim that date. If no dates are open, or the date that works for you already has a hare, don’t worry – we to cap our hareline a few months into the future, but if you contact the hare razor about a date in the distant future you may get first dibs at that date when we do start taking reservations for it. Sometimes dates open up later, so email the Hare Razor or try contacting the person who has signed up for that particular date and see if they need a co-hare.
It is also in your best interest to find yourself an experienced co-hare the first few times that you hare. Even though you may find this guide very helpful and you may think you’ve got all of your bases covered, there are things that an experienced co-hare can teach you that you would never think of. Try co-haring with people you’ve never hared with before as well. Each hare has a different style and, more importantly, a different bag of tricks from which you can learn. Who knows, even those who have set hundreds of trails may end up learning a new and interesting way of doing things from you!
Step 2: Pick A Venue
Your venue can be a bar, a residence or a public space like a park. If you’re planning an A-to-B trail (more about this below), it can be a combination of the above.
You can expect better attendance if your venue is relatively easy to get to on public transit. Far flung locations are great as we will get to run in a place we probably haven’t been to before, but do try to announce the location you have chosen a few weeks in advance so people have time to figure out how they are going to get there.
If your trail will be finishing in a public space, you’ll need to supply enough beer for circle. Take care in selecting the location for the circle. As most know, public alcohol consumption is illegal in Chicago, except within Cook County Forest Preserves. Try to find a somewhat secluded area and keep in mind that it’s our noise (singing and yelling) that usually attracts attention and gets the cops called on us. Restroom facilities of some sort are desirable at a public space and a shelter in case of rain.
If you decide to use a bar, you’ll need to pay them a visit ahead of time to ensure they have a decent space for us to circle and can provide a reasonable price for our beer. We have some “hash friendly” bars in the city that we use frequently. Ask others for suggestions if you’re having trouble finding a bar for your run. You can look at our Hash Bar Map to see the location of bars, residences, and other places that local Chicago hash clubs have run out of in the last few years. Pick a neighborhood you’re familiar with, or a completely new one, and check out the various bars highlighted on the list.
If you had a bar in mind that isn’t on the Hash Bar Map, don’t worry – contact them anyway and see how big of a space they have (Chicago Hash House Harriers attendance varies by season – it isn’t uncommon for us to have a pack of less than 20 in the Winter and more than 40 in the Summer, so keep that in mind) and what kind of deal they can give us (Hash Cash is $10 – this should cover at least one pitcher plus tip per person, but some bars will be extra nice and throw in a few extra pitchers for us, so it can even out).
DO NOT just show up at a bar without telling them that we’re coming – even bars that we’ve hashed out of numerous times do not enjoy it when you do this, as it often results in them not having enough service staff on hand or, even worse, not enough beer. Nothing sucks worse than showing up to a bar and having the hash drink the bar out of beer before we’ve even finished circle.
You should also consider transportation options when selecting a venue. As an urban hash, the Chicago Hash House Harriers are committed to using public transportation for traveling to and from the hash whenever possible. Chicago has an excellent public transit system, and there really aren’t many points in the city that you cannot get to by a combination of the El, the Bus, and the even the Metra. The venue you choose doesn’t have to be right downstairs from a train station (though that is very thoughtful of you), but at least be aware of when the most accessible bus route or Metra service ends for the day so the group is not stranded someplace. Though driving is discouraged, some times you have to drive (especially if you’re a hare and you’re coming from work), but be smart and get a designated driver or pick someplace where you can leave your car overnight. Hearing about hashers getting DWIs and into accidents sucks and reflects poorly on the hash as a whole.
Step 3: Plan The Trail
This step varies from person to person, so it is important to find the method that works best for you – just don’t forget that it is your job as the hare to get every member of the pack to the beer stop and finishing location. They may not make it all there at the same time, and you may lose a member of the pack every now and again, but your goal should be to get everybody to the same point at about the same time, NOT to get everybody confused and have the entire pack go back to the venue rather than complete your trail.
Another important thing to remember is the weather and the distance of your trail – trail length can certainly vary from hare to hare, but most trails are between 3 and 5 miles, with long trails topping out at around 7 miles. If you’re dead set on setting longer trails, be aware of the time of day that your run will begin and the weather. Nobody likes spending 3+ hours on trail, especially on a weeknight. Likewise, long runs in extreme heat and cold, or when rain, snow or high winds are likely should be avoided. The Chicago Hash House Harriers do run every week regardless of the weather, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll appreciate your trail regardless of the weather conditions.
Most trails start off as ideas, and there are more than enough hares who go into trail knowing only that they want to start at a given bar, run past a few specific points in town, and then wind up at a beer stop. This method is usually preferred by people who know a given area particularly well and are able to accurately judge distances.
Another useful tool in planning trail is to scout the area – if you’ve never been in a particular neighborhood you’re probably best served to take an afternoon to walk around and check out that area. You’re likely to find some fun little quirks of the neighborhood that you can then incorporate into your trail. At the very least, this will help ensure that you don’t get lost when you’re pressed for time laying your trail. Online tools like Google Earth and Street View can be used to save time when designing your trail.
Some people find it helpful to extensively map trail – marking down on a map where every split, check, and false on trail will be. This method is helpful because it helps ensure that you won’t get lost while setting your trail, but it also helps prevent shortcutting, since you’ll be trying to think where the pack will go in each instance and you’re less likely to have splits and checks to close to other parts of trail.
Lastly, never plan anything into your trail that you think the pack would be uncomfortable attempting – again, your job is to make sure that every member of the pack makes it safely through the entire trail, so while having the pack swim across the Chicago River might seem like a fun and innovative idea, ask yourself whether such an action would discourage people from completing your trail. If it does, you’re probably better served planning an alternate route for people who are not as hardcore as yourself.
Most trails are A-to-A runs where we finish at the same location we started from. In some cases, the hare may design their trail to finish at another location (known as an A-to-B run). A-to-B runs need to be carefully planned to ensure that everyone can find the “B” (finish point). The hares also need to consider how to transport everyone’s bags, backpacks, etc. from A-to-B. Once the pack has departed from the “A” location, the hares must mark the address of “B” on the ground so that any hasher that becomes hopelessly lost on trail can go back to “A” to learn the location of “B”. In addition, sweeping the trail is mandatory. All decision points must be cleared from start to finish. This includes from the beer stop to the “B” location. The hares must do this themselves or designate a member of the pack as “sweeper” and provide them with chalk or flour and detailed information about the trail.
If you are planning an A-to-B trail that starts from a bar, you should consider buying some beers at the bar for the pack before the run begins. Having 30 people walk in and ask for water and then not come back to the bar is not going to earn us any goodwill with that bar!
Step 4: Set the Trail
You’ve made it this far, now it’s time to set the trail. Your first decision should be whether to pre-set the trail (i.e. “dead hare”) or to set the trail live (“live hare”). This is a matter of personal preference, but there are certain things to consider for each situation.
For a dead hare trail, the most important thing to do is leave yourself enough time to set trail – this varies depending on how much running you do while setting trail. If you like to take it easy and walk the trail while setting it, allow yourself at least two hours. If you’re going to run while setting trail you’ll obviously need less time.
If you are live-haring, you should plan to have your chalk talk drawn out and be ready to depart 15 minutes before the pack heads out. You will probably want to designate another hasher as your chalk-talk hare in order for you to depart on time.
Whether you dead-hare or live-hare, the objective in placing your marks is to allow the pack to easily follow your trail. All of your marks should be in plain sight and not hidden behind walls, dumpsters, etc. The only exception applies to the first few marks leading away from a checkpoint. Those arrows may be somewhat hidden in order to make solving the check a bit more difficult.
Also consider the distance between your marks. Once you set a mark, it may be 2 to 3 hours before the pack comes along (unless you are live-haring). Anything can happen during that time. Your marks should be close enough together so that if one or two marks get wiped out (someone waters their lawn or parks their car on your arrow), the pack can still figure out how to continue on your trail. At a minimum, there should be a mark every 30-to-40 paces. There is no such thing as a trail that is too well marked! If in doubt put more marks.
If you are setting a trail during daylight hours that the pack will run after dark, take note of the location of street lights and use them to your advantage by placing marks in a spot that will be illuminated.
Now it’s time to decide what you’re going to mark trail with. The prime considerations here are the weather and the time of day the run will take place.
Drywall – It’s free and can be found in dumpsters all over the city. Dry wall is suitable for day or night runs but should not be used if there is even a slight chance of rain as it washes away very quickly. You may want to wear gloves while drawing marks as your hands can get pretty torn up after drawing a few hundred arrows with this stuff.
White Chalk – White chalk is the preferred material for marking trail when the weather is good. It provides high contrast, which makes your marks easy for the pack to see. White chalk works well day or night but like drywall, washes away quickly in the rain. Colored “sidewalk chalk” should not be used under any circumstances.
White Flour – Once the standard trail marking material in Chicago, plain white flour has gotten many a hasher and hash club in trouble with the authorities in recent years due to its resemblance to a certain bio-hazardous substance: Anthrax. For this reason, white flour should not be used in urban areas (sidewalks, alleys, etc.). White flour can normally be used in forest preserves and other wooded areas (slapped on the sides of trees or thrown on the ground), but use common sense. Some people do freak out when they see white powder.
Colored Flour – Colored flour is the marking material of choice in inclement weather. It’s a mixture of normal baking flour and colored carpenters chalk powder (aka straight-line chalk), which can be purchased online or at many hardware store such as Home Depot. A good mixture is 5 lbs. of flour to one 8-ounce bottle of chalk powder. Colored flour has the advantage that it does not wash away as easily as chalk or drywall and can be placed on surfaces other than concrete. Chalk powder comes in a variety of colors. Select red, orange or green for daytime runs, and red or green for nighttime runs (orange becomes invisible at night under the orange glow of Chicago street lights). Refrain from using blue powder as it is very difficult to see.
Remember, there are no “rain-outs” on the hash. If your trail gets washed away by rain, you are still responsible for going back out and re-marking it. Plan carefully. Watch the weather forecast and choose your marking material wisely. If you were planning to dead-hare your trail and rain is on the way, you may want to consider holding off and live-haring the trail instead. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can almost always find someone in the pack that is willing to step up and help you live-hare your trail if you’re not up to the task yourself.
Don’t forget to use standard Chicago marks when laying trail as well – new marks can be fun and exciting, but you’ll need to thoroughly explain them during chalk talk. Standard Chicago marks are as follows: arrows or simple dots of flour to indicate which way trail goes. Splits are decision points where the trail can go in one of several directions and require only one mark afterwards to be on “true trail”. Checks (circles with X’s through them, or X’s of flour, or three vertical dots on a surface) are decision points where trail can go any of 369 degrees and three separate marks are required to indicate true trail. Backchecks (fishhooks) indicate that the pack should turn around and look for a hidden trail somewhere behind them. A False (an F) indicates a false trail and the pack should return to the last split or check and look in another direction. A Beer Near (BN) shows that the pack is nearly the beer stop (usually a half-mile or less) and a Beer Check (B) tells the pack to stop and enjoy a frosty brew.
Lastly, and most importantly, when you are setting trail (especially if you are doing it with flour) you are going to encounter people that ask what you’re doing. The smart thing to tell them is that you’re setting trail for your running club and that you’re simply using chalk or flour so the runners know where to go. It’s also helpful to explain to them that if you’re that what you’re putting down is just flour and is perfectly safe for pets and little children, and will wash away quickly.
Remember that when you’re out laying trail you’re a representative of the Chicago Hash House Harriers, and even though we all enough being rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, that doesn’t mean that we want our hares to go out there pissing off the locals and getting the authorities called on us. Want to get your trail immortalized for all of the wrong reasons? Piss off somebody while setting trail and get the cops called on us.
Step 5: Chalk Talk, Sweeping The Trail, and Manning the Beer Stop
So you’re done setting trail and you’ve found your way back to the venue for a quick brew. Don’t get too comfortable, as your job isn’t over just yet. As a hare you still have three really important responsibilities to take care of. The first of which is chalk talk.
Chalk talk is a simple concept – before the pack departs it gathers outside the starting bar and the hare identifies to the pack which marks are used out on trail. This is helpful because it gives virgin hashers and visitors a chance to familiarize themselves with our standard Chicago marks. Even if you only set your trail with standard Chicago marks and you have only veteran hashers, you should still go through the marks at chalk talk, just to be sure. Also, don’t forget to leave an on-out arrow and the time at which the pack departed for any late-comers.
Your next responsibility as a hare is sweeping. I can hear the veteran hares grumbling about this part already, as it is easily the second most hated part of haring. Simply put, it is your job as the hare to make sure the trail is marked so that the slower hashers have a chance to catch up to those in the front of the pack. There are two ways to do this – you can go out and run alongside the pack and sweep as you go, or you can hand out chalk to the pack so that they can sweep for you. While this second option sounds like a lot less work, keep in mind that Chicago doesn’t have a stellar track record for the pack sweeping trail.
Lastly, don’t forget the beer stop. As a hare you’re responsible for providing a beer stop for the pack. This means you’ll need to purchase beer, and take it to your beer stop. You might think it is a cool idea to just hide some beer in an alley somewhere, don’t forget about Chicago’s homeless population – to a bum a 30-pack of PBR is like winning the lottery. When purchasing beer for the beer stop, some people like to just grab a case and forget it, but keep the size of the pack and the weather in mind – while a 30-pack might be fun to down at the beer stop for a pack of ten during the summer, in the Winter it might be too much for even a pack of 25. There should be at least one beer for every person on trail (this includes walkers and, yes, you, the hare), and it should be served at a reasonable temperature (i.e. do not bring warm beer to a beer stop!). Proving water on especially hot days is also encouraged – you don’t want people passing out from heat exhaustion during circle, after all. Your distance from the venue at the beer stop should also be noted – while some hashes have their beer stops in the middle of trail, the Chicago Hash House Harriers typically have their beer stops closer to the end. Don’t be surprised if your pack simply walks back to the venue after your beer stop, even if your beer stop in only halfway through trail – if you want to encourage people to run after their first beer stop, trying using multiple beer stops (but don’t go overboard as we still need to conduct circle at a reasonable hour when we get back to the venue).
Step 6: Drink Up
Congrats, you’ve made it back to the venue after manning your beer stop. Now sit back, relax, and prepare for a barrage of down-downs. Chances are you messed something up, and badly, and even if you haven’t, the pack is likely to take out their anger on you anyway – stay calm and take your down-downs with your chin up. I hope you remembered when that last bus leaves, because chances are you’re going to need it.