Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harrier? Than what?

I realize that I've hardly been writing about anything but my running for awhile. Hell, I realize that I've been writing that I've hardly been writing about anything but my running for awhile. Why? Well, aside from school, which isn't always an entertaining topic, running is basically what I've been doing, and so much of my attention and time were devoted to marathon training. (Incidentally, that rescued Chilean miner who ran the New York City Marathon? He finished his race in the same time-- to the minute-- that I did mine. I didn't hold him back... I'm innocent of contributing to the delinquency of a miner.)

Aside from that, I have a tendency to go home in the gathering dusk after school and sit there, doing some work, shoveling a bucket of carbs down my gaping maw, and counting (nonexistent) flowers on the wall. That don't bother me at all.

Well, maybe a little... it's getting darker. And colder. And earlier.

On Saturday, at the invitation of my friend Shawn-- she's the one whose shoulder my head is on in the bus photo in my marathon post-- I attended the Yongsan Kimchi Hash House Harriers' (YKH3) hash.

Hashing, to put in very briefly and somewhat inadequately, is a recreation of hares and hounds, wherein beastly British pursue British beasts. A couple of runners (the "hares") take off from the starting point and fifteen minutes later the other runners (the "pack") head out in pursuit. The hares have marked the course with chalk and/or flour and/or shredded paper: turn this way; go straight ahead; STOP... the trail could go in any direction; go back three markings and try again... it's brilliantly laid out so that the fastest runners go ahead and check possible leads, than double back so the slower ones (NO, I'M NOT THE SLOWEST) can catch up and catch their breath.

So, picture this... a ritzy shopping area of Seoul, thousands of Koreans out in their fall/winter fashions, totally bewildered by forty or fifty Westerners. some wearing cat ears or carrying bedpans or rubber bricks around their necks (don't ask), running down the street blowing whistles and yelling "ON-ON" and and "ON ONE" and "TRUE TRAIL" loudly enough to be heard a block away.

We went down alleyways and by posh department stores, around a soccer field and through a traditional Korean village, through a busy subway station and on the trail up Namsan Mountain, down by the creek past the incredibly elaborate lantern festival...
(As it was daytime, the lanterns weren't lit up, but by the end of the after-run social, a lot of the runners were.)

Oh. My. God, you guys, it was...

So. Much. Fun.

I hadn't realized how long it had been since I had actually played at anything. No basketball, no tennis, no softball... and I wouldn't even count those games as pure play in the way I mean here. I'm thinking Frisbee, Hacky Sack, New Games... you do know what New Games were, don't you, you old hippie? Something that's just fun, with no score, no losers, no competition... prepping for a road race is rewarding, but it's work, constantly checking how far you've gone and how fast you've done it. This is pure fun, like dogs tussling over a stick or kids playing tag or Victoria's Secret Angels having a pillow... ah, never mind.

To tell the truth, I didn't love everything about the club. There's a constant raunchiness involved that seems very forced, very frat-boy, to me. Regulars use "hash names", generally very dirty ones, in lieu of their real names, and there are all kinds of rituals before and after the hash. I was hazed (noninvasively) because I was a Virgin. (Umm... that means a first-time hasher, not what you're thinking. I swear I'm not a lower-case-v virgin, though I suppose it's possible that it's grown back by now.)

As I may have young (under 40) impressionable readers, I'll forgo repeating the names or the jokes or the details of the rituals. I will say that there's a lot of beer involved and, in this particular hash club, a plastic dinosaur named Dick. After the hash, I completed a ceremony that theoretically involves draining a can of Bud Light and pouring the remnant over my head, so I've lost my Virginity, though I'm still No-Name Steve until I earn a hash name.

There are a couple of thousand H3 clubs all around the world, including several in Seoul. I think I'm going back to the YKH3 hash this Saturday, though this week's theme is Naughty Schoolgirl and I left my plaid skirt  back in Florida. Sometime soon I'll also check out the Southside H3 and maybe the Seoul H3, which is all male. (I hear that there's a 75-year-old guy who goes out with them every week.)


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