Travel Features > Leisure> Hash Run
Loosing Your Hash Virginity
Wayne Tarman finally goes on the Kuching hash run
and despite his reservations is pleasantly surprised.
Some expatriates view joining the hash as a rite of passage, an
absolute must for any white skinned person who happens to set
foot in Malaysia. One of their reasons for joining the hash is
to meet other westerners so that they can live in a cocoon of
whiteness, hang out with their own and limit interaction with
Malaysians. I've meet people like this who are firmly fixed in
their isolated expat nirvana. I met a lot them when I first went
on a hash run in Kuala Lumpur many years ago.
The run itself was most enjoyable but the crowd and the post-run
activities and banter were a nightmare. I was surrounded by real
sad characters, westerners who constantly whinged about living
in Malaysia and thrived on beer boy talk. Their pathetic attempts
at male bonding via a stream of racist and sexist jokes and their
constant reference to their willies put me off the hash for life.
Since then, despite enjoying a cross country run, I've made a
point of avoiding the hash and bluntly refusing any invitation
to join on. But after four years of avoiding the hash throughout
SE Asia I recently succumbed. When Valerie Mashman, a long term
resident of Kuching and keen hash fan, invited me to one of Saturday's
mixed City Hashes I surprised myself by accepting the invite.
I must confess I wasn't keen to go but I didn't have much choice
in the matter. For the previous few days I had been followed around,
'fly-on-wall' style, by Clare and Vibeka, a BBC Radio 4 production
team. They were in Kuching to record a programme for a radio series
on young Brits living in Asia. Clare and Vibeka had heard about
the hash and wanted to check it out. They hadn't travelled all
the way form the UK to miss out on recording a bizarre tribal
gathering of locals and expats scampering around the Borneo bush.
So, in the interests of furthering the cause of radio journalism
I dusted down my running shoes and laid off the beers the night
The run was set to take place just outside Kuching. The meeting
point was a somewhat scruffy seafood restaurant at '13th Mile'
Serian Road. Clare and I arrived early to take in the scene. Valerie
was there and introduced us to the a few of the regular runners.
Sarawak is just a little bit different from West Malaysia and
I soon found out that the Kuching hash offers a totally different
experience from the KL hash (thank God). For a start there were
very few expatriates, and those that turned up were surrounded
by their Malaysian friends and had nothing but praise for Malaysia.
This was a welcome change from the sad expats on the KL hash I'd
meet years before. Local Sarawakian made up 90% of the runners.
I spotted a few people I knew, and a few familiar faces that I
didn't know but now do.
The Kuching hash certainly attracts a motley crew of human beings
from around the globe. There were fit looking athletes, armchair
slobs, wide boys and tough no-nonsense girlies. Most people looked
decidedly normal, the kind of people you meet in the veggie section
of Kuching's Sunday market not the kind of people you'd expect
would enjoy a regular cross country run. One old boy had done
1,000 hash runs. You could tell, he was edging 60 but looked 40.
A few fellas were wearing long silly socks. I naively asked why.
'No got scratch, short socks lousy, cut everywhere' was the answer.
He then pointed to my sparkling white tennis socks. A quick 'No
good lah' followed by a chorus of laughter signalled that the
undergrowth was going to shred my shins, big time.
The expats were a varied bunch. There were a couple of Aussies
involved in construction in Kuching, a few expat wives, a 60 year
old ex-Peace Corps worker, a British soldier who lived in Germany
and was back in Kuching for a holiday with his Sarawakian wife,
and a super fit American who lived in China and was a member of
the Beijing Hash. This guy immediately made a few friends with
the Chinese-speaking contingent as he was fluent in Mandarin and
enjoyed demonstrating his wide knowledge of Chinese swear words.
Pre-run rituals were kept to a minimum. Some super fit looking
Sarawak State runners flexed their muscles like they meant business
but most people just sat around talking. A few guys tucked into
jumbo plates of Foochow noodles, the perfect pre-run meal no doubt.
Another bloke nursed a large bottle of Carlsberg whilst a group
of women were in deep debate.
Then we were off. The first part of the run followed the busy
Kuching-Serian Road. Dodging cars and trucks on a Malaysian road
is not my idea of the perfect cross country run. After 10 minutes
I could hold back no longer and started to whinge. Thankfully
I was not the only whinger. Even the regular runners were miffed
that they had to pound the road for 10 minutes dodging speeding
trucks before the paper markings lead off on to a jungle trail.
After passing a few farmhouses the trail disappeared in to a field
of overgrown thorns, bushes and leaves. At this stage Clare was
recording like a dervish, shoving her microphone in front of Valerie
& I and any runner that was game for a bit of banter. But as the
weeds grew in number and wrestling matches with some stubborn
vines took their toil, the Sony diskman was placed in the backpack.
Periodic recordings were the order of the day, priority number
one was to navigate through the sea of green.
Valerie was on a roll, describing Borneo's forest types as she
ploughed on up the trail and chatted to fellow runners. In fact
her enthusiasm kept me going as I was not particularly enjoying
this stretch of barrier-like bush. Half an hour into the hash
and I hadn't even broken into a jog as the undergrowth was too
thick. I was also in desperate need of a pair of silly looking
socks to save my shins from the razor-like palms that were slicing
Someone raced by and commented that we were in the middle of an
abandoned rice field. It must have been abandoned in the 1950's
as you needed a parang to cut your way through. Finding ourselves
near the front of the hash without a parang to clear the undergrowth
we decided to let a few of the experienced runners pass by and
act as our parang, clearing a path through the tumble of leaves
and assorted jungle-like crap.
After a while we came to a clearing and a beautiful bamboo grove.
Time for a rest. Fortunately the front runners were lost amongst
some false trails and loops and were not far away probing for
a way forward. Shouts of 'are you' from the bunch of slackers
at the back filled the air until a distant 'on, on' encouraged
the pack of back markers, me included to move on.
Having crossed an abandoned paddy field that resembled a patch
of secondary forest our next obstacle was a rather rank looking
stream, a metre or so deep. Everyone else waded through the stagnant
scum-laden water and not surpassingly emerged the other end covered
in green and brown scum. I didn't fancy it. I'd already made up
my mind to circumnavigate this obstacle even if it meant getting
my shins lacerated by some undiscovered palm species with monster
spikes. A quick glance at Clare, our intrepid radio journalist,
and I realised that she was also in no mood for an afternoon dip
in slime. After a quick look a round we found a fallen tree and
a bridge to slime-free safety.
10 minutes down the track we found ourselves at the front of the
pack as everyone else had got lost on a false trail. I now felt
great and was beginning to appreciate the hash formula of a confusing
trail that ensures that the front runners are never too far ahead
of the rest. We let the front runners past including the man from
the Beijing hash who came charging down the trail, earning the
name 'Speedy' in the process.
Spurred on by Speedy and his pals I decided to give it some and
broke into a sprint and followed the front runners. It was a mistake.
I managed to keep up but after running around in a circle of false
trails I decided that the best place to be in a hash run is either
in the middle of the pack or last. After half an hour I turned
a corner and bumped into Valerie and Clare, the back markers.
They were sensibly strolling through the jungle enjoying the scenery
and having a chat. After that I left the front running to Speedy
and chilled out at the back. Speedy passed us another couple of
times as he went in search of the paper markings that would lead
us to the finish.
After one and half hours of strolling around the jungle and the
occasional jog we came back to the main road and the restaurant
meeting place. The hash was over. To be honest I thought that
the trail was crap as there was very little opportunity to run,
but I enjoyed the overall experience. The regular runners also
agreed that the trail was not up to much. They took this in the
stride - some trails are good, some are not, it depends on the
hare. As were all drifted into the restaurant Tom Leng, the hare,
was waiting with a grin on his face. He thought the fact that
we had run around in circles was great and welcomed everyone back
with smile, herding them over to the beer wagon.
After a rest and a glass of beer I was ready to leave but I wasn't
allowed to. As a Kuching hash virgin I had to participate in an
end of hash initiation rite. As the whole group of runners gathered
round and sung a song I had to down a beer and place the glass
on my head. As rituals go this is not a bad one. All in all I
had a fun afternoon that changed my view of the hash. Although
I won't become a regular I will join in occasionally. The combination
of cross country run, a bit of fun, the odd beer and the company
of a motley crew of friendly individuals does have a certain appeal.
Kuching Hash Details
The Kuching Hash warmly welcomes visitors. If you fancy joining
in contact Tom Leng (082-416778) or Jennifer Yap (082-411694)
for further details, meeting places, etc.
|Harriers (Men only)
||Tuesday at 5.30 pm
|Harriettes (Ladies Only)
||Wednesday at 5.30 pm
|City Hash (Mixed)
||Saturday 4.30 pm