Suggestions (not Rules) for Setting Trail

The following is an insightful reminder about the fine points of trail-setting, compiled by what I'm told is "the august 'Committee of 500 Runs.'"  I should like to note that I have met a lot of 500-run hashers, and when they say "august" here (i.e., "marked by majestic dignity or grandeur," from the Latin "augur"), they probably meant "August," viz the month.

It's worth keeping in mind that there are definitely hashers, some of them quite close to august, who would disagree with the "4-6 mile" part below.  But here's the Committee's Official Suggestions:

Suggestions (not rules) for Setting a GFH3 Trail

Hash Background: The Hash is a social group, not an athletic one!  Hashing is also a game of wits where the hare(s) try to outwit the hounds.  The hares use checks, false trails, loops, and a clever trail to keep the pack together.  Hash runs often include water crossings, mud, hills, woods, poison ivy, fences, ditches, culverts, storm drains, open fields, fallen trees, and as well as trails and roads.

Hash Purpose:  A “Hash” is a 4-6 mile run that is not a race.  The purpose of setting the trail is to keep the pack of runners together.  Decision points (“checks”) and trail reversals (“back checks”) are used to trick/occupy/distract the faster runners so that the other runners can catch up.

Hash Symbols:

“Check”          A check is a flour or chalk circle that indicates a decision point.  A decision point is any place along the run where the run (true trail) may change to any direction, i.e., turn right, turn left, bear left, continue straight, etc. Occasionally it is appropriate to add “spokes” to the circle to indicate specific alternative choices

“On-On”         An “on-on” is a small blob of flour used to indicate both true trail and false trails.

“Back              A “back check” is indicated by a circle with a number in it made of flour or chalk
Check”            typically.  It tells the finder (lead runner) that s/he must count back the number of “on-on’s” indicated by the number in the circle. That ‘on-on” should be treated as a “check” or decision point.

“X”                  A chalk or flour “X” is used to indicate that the runner is on a false trail and further forward progress should be avoided, i.e., return to the last “check” and make another guess.

Arrows                        A chalk or flour arrow with cross-marks on the shaft is used to show “true trail.”  Arrows can be used to direct the runners to avoid a specific hazard, i.e., unsafe situation, hostile landowner.  The use of arrows should be minimized.  An arrow should not be used at any point where a check could be used.

Hash Run Environment: The Hare should select an interesting scenic 4-6 mile circuit that maximizes woodsy trails, paths, and softer surfaces.  Avoid concrete surfaces and busy roads.  A premium is placed on including “virgin” territory.  Avoid long boring sections that include few decision points.  Remember, since the group does not know where they are going a “check” can be placed virtually anywhere along the run.

Hash Artistry: When setting a trail, use checks frequently at logical (and even some illogical) decision points.  A decision point is any point along a run where a runner/walker might wonder which way to go.  After a check is placed, one or more false trails should be marked with “on-on‘s” placed every 50-100 feet apart.  A good rule to follow is that as  a runner passes one “on-on” he/she should be able to soon see the next “on-on”. When placing an “on-on” near a check it is considered appropriately sneaky to “hide” the flour so that the lead runner must get to the flour before he/she can actually see it.

False trails must be marked with an “X” if continuing on that route would result in either a potentially confusing (e.g., finding other parts of the trail) or a potentially dangerous situation.  Otherwise, marking a false trail with an “X” is a personal choice made by the hare.

After a “check,” the true trail is also marked with on-on’s.  True trail continues until the next possible decision point where another “check” would be placed, complete with false trails.

When laying out the trail, every effort should be made to avoid long (over 500 feet) sections with no decision points. A “good” hash run should have at least 35 checks. Using an ADC map, or is useful in laying out a good run.

It is desirable (i.e. more confusing for the front runners) to avoid having most of the checks in a run going in the same direction, i.e., straight.  This can be avoided by having loops or jogs that go around a “block” or onto a side trail.  Properly done, a loop or jog can allow the pack to catch up with the front runners.

Basically any given run is a 4-5 mile loop with the potential for being either very “boring” i.e. the pack knows where it is going, or—even worse—a “road race” i.e. long sections with no choice points. The challenge in setting a good run is making the basic out and back “loop” more interesting.

When to Host: There are 25-30 regular hashers in GFH3.  There are 52+ hashes a year. Do a little math.  It is essential that everyone who runs regularly with GFH3 host at least twice a year. Couples, who hash should, therefore host 4 times a year. Often several hashers will sign up to “co-host” a hash. Although co-hosting is a very good thing to do, it is not the same as being the one who is assuming primary responsibility for the event---the host. When several names are listed on the website only the first name listed actually gets “credit” for hosting. For you new-comers, it is very easy to get help setting a Hash run, so please do not be intimidated by these suggestions. Ask any experienced host and they will bore you silly with all the inane details of hosting a run.

 Hash Trail Etiquette:  Since hashing is not a race, trail etiquette requires two things of whoever arrives at a check first. First, when “checking” they must yell (i.e., so others can hear) “ON-ON” whenever they see an “on-on.”  This helps the pack, as they arrive at the check, to determine which of the choices is “true trail”.  Second, once “true trail” is determined, someone must mark (with chalk, a stick or by kicking out the flour circle) the direction of “true trail.”  This allows those further behind to stay on trail. Don’t assume that those behind will be able to see where you went. Failing to mark a check is a serious No-No (the reverse of an On-On) as it breaks the pack into small sub-groups which must each independently solve each check to determine “true trail.” This makes everyone very cranky!

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