Guidelines for Setting a Hash Run
You have been on several Hash runs with the Saigon Hash and you already consider yourself becoming rather experienced. Then, on a fatal Sunday, the Hare Razor asks you to become a Hare and set a run. Naturally, as you have enjoyed the runs, you know it is only fair to contribute also and, apparently, it is now your turn. So you agree on a date of your Hareset. As it is still 4-5 weeks away, you don’t worry too much. But then, all of a sudden, it hits you: You, and only you will be responsible for that particular Hareset. Oh, jeez…. What am I going to do?
Don’t panic! Here are some guidelines that will take you through the process.
It is quite a bit, so skip the parts you feel you’re confident with:
- What do you remember from your previous runs as a Hound
- Getting a co-hare
- Hare Trainer for Virgin Hares – if possible
- Find a location
- Look at Google maps
- A GPS
- Reccie the site
- Preparations after the reccie
- Laying the trails with shreddie
- The day of the run
- Costs of being Hare
- If you are no longer a Virgin Hare
Most hashers do not pay much attention when they get on the bus and run. So most people haven’t got a clue as to where they have been; only that it was long and hot. They may also remember that there were quite a number of checks and a few false trails (falsies) and that there was, or wasn’t, a water stop. And they may remember that there were two trails, one for walkers and a longer one for runners.
But, as you still have a few weeks before it is your turn, pay more attention on every run from now on. What did you like and are there things that you would like to do better? Everything that you consciously notice will help you to do a proper Hareset on your day.
Hares are expected to include a "Walker's Trail" for the senile, infirm, age-challenged, gravitationally-gifted or otherwise handicapped Hashers among us. A Walking Hare is to be appointed to guide these lambs. As also the run needs a Hare, it is custom at the Saigon Hash to have (at least) two (2) Hares, one for the walking trail and one or two for the runners. This is quite different from most other hashes where a Hare is generally not even permitted to be seen on the trail. The main reason is that, because of the transport arrangements, by bus, we do not want to lose any hashers. Runners are often able to find the paper laid by the hares, but the walkers are not good at finding their own trail and definitely need to be guided by a Walking Hare on the day.
So, a co-hare is needed. This being the case, you may as well get a good co-hare (meaning and experienced one, not a good-looking or sexy one).
Decide in advance who will be the Walking Hare and who will be the Running Hare.
If you are a virgin hare or it’s your first hare set on the Saigon hash, the Hare Razor will try to pair you with a “hare trainer” who will be there to give you advice and help you through your first hare set. Remember that the hare trainer is not there to set the run for you and will act as a guide and advisor in the whole process of setting a hare set so the next time you do it you will feel more confident about doing it on your own and picking your own co hares.
A hare trainer is an experienced co-hare with several haresets behind his belt and he could well set a run without you. But that is not the point: You should learn from the experience and do as much as possible all by yourself and only ask the co-hare for guidance in case you feel overwhelmed, or lost. Remember, you can only learn by doing.
It turns out that the single most difficult matter for a new Hare (even one that has experience from another hash chapter) is finding a good location for his run. If you are new to HCM City, you do not have much idea about the topography of the area around the city. So, where to go?
There are, of course, other good locations not shown here. For example, occasionally, runs are set in the paddies southwest of the city, within the city itself (on public holidays like during Tet) and in Phu My Huong.
Of course, it would be good if you could remember a location used by other Hares that you really liked. If you have a GPS, you can mark nice run locations with your GPS.
If you open the link to Google maps you will find many locations marked as suitable for circles. Chose one of those for your run, or decide on another one that you know is nice. If you select a previously used location, it will generally be OK. If you select a location yourself, consider the following:
Can the run site be reached by bus on a Sunday within a reasonable time, say <70 minutes?
Are there features that limit the use of the area selected, like large rivers that cannot be crossed, busy roads that should preferably be avoided, restricted sections (lime military areas), airports, industrial estates, golf courses that cannot be crossed, etc.? The less limitations, the easier it is to set a run;
Are there nice features, like hills, an abundance of small trails, small rivers that can be crossed, monkey bridges, etc?
Is it easy to set the run as a loop (finishing the run/walk where you start), a so-called A to A? Setting an A to B, with the Finish of the run/walk at a different location makes it easier to set the run but, on the big day, the logistics of getting the bus to the target site while you are being hare are usually a nightmare. A to B runs are not recommended for virgin Hares.
Most of these issues must be considered (and confirmed) on the day you do your reccie. Blow up the part of the map that you intend to use, print it out and mark the approximate run site that takes into account limitations like large rivers, busy roads, etc.
Make several print-outs that you can use during your reccie to mark the trails.
Finally, make sure that you can somehow find your selected location once you are doing a reccie. So, if you are geographically challenged, also bring a map (Google maps or Google Earth) of the route to the run site.
Most Hares set their runs without a GPS. They use paper and pencil and plot down their run on a Google maps or Google Earth Print-out. It is all possible and, of course, until handheld GPS were invented, there was no other way. Some of the hardened hashers believe, therefore, that only idiots use a GPS and that the GPS prevents you to see the beautiful surrounding and that, while walking around with your eyes glue to the GPS, you will miss some of the nicest run trails.
May be so, but a GPS is awfully handy. Once you have learned how to operate them, you will no longer get lost. It also gives you great confidence in trying out trails that are looking good, but are off-direction. You will always find back the general direction, thanks to your handheld.
Handheld GPS are not cheap, but they are worth it. There are a few brands, but Garmin is generally thought to be the best in handhelds. eTrex 10 with monochrome screen will cost about USD 100, the eTrex 20 has a colour screen and will set you back USD 200. More expensive models are for the hardened, or the richer, hashers. Garmin handhelds can be bought in HCM City from:
THANH QUANG CO LTD.
56, 7A St. - Cu xaBinhThoi
Ward 8, District 11
Ho Chi Minh City
Phone: 84-8-3965 0450
Fax: 84-8-3965 0452
Mobile: 091 667 4 667 (speaks English)
And, with mobile phones getting better all the time, you may already have one with GPS capability, like the iPhone which can be downloaded from the iTunes store such as MotionX-GPS, TrailGuru, RunKeeper, iMapMyRun and others.
For every hareset, at least one Reccie (reconnaissance) of the run location is needed. If you have a car or motor bike, your reccie becomes relatively easy. Motorbikes are the best. Reccies are usually carried out on a Saturday when traffic is heavy and bikes get you faster along the highways leading to most run sites. Also, a motor bike can be used to cross through the intended area and get a quick feel of the run site.
If you do not have access to a car or bike, a good option is to rent a bike. Chi’s Café, 40 Bui Vien is a reliable place to rent bikes. Else, taxi or xe om (motorbike driver) hire is an option. Before you decide on this option, make good arrangements with the taxi driver, using an hourly rate rather than using the meter. Total costs for a day should not normally exceed VND 800,000 to one million. Motorbikes should be a lot less.
a. Check location for the circle:
The first thing to do when arriving at “your” site is verifying that your intended circle location is (still) good enough:
Are the roads to the circle accessible for the bus?
Is there not a horizontal bar over the road, or cables, that prevent the bus from reaching the circle location?
Are there any nicer locations nearby?
We do not normally ask for permission to have a circle somewhere. However, permission cannot be avoided if the site is clearly a privately owned site. Better to avoid such locations. Also better to avoid locations too close to villages as they will attract many onlookers (although we do not always worry about that).
b. Criss-cross the area by bike/car:
Then, take some time to crisscross the area, by bike or by car. This will give you a first impression of nice areas with good trails and not-so-nice locations that would better be avoided. Areas that looked good on Google maps may have changed quite a bit over time and the fact that a site was used before is no guarantee that it is still good.
Look for nice features in the area that can be used in the run/walk: shady areas, river sides, lakes, river crossings, hills, small run trails, variation in the run (not straight sections), etc. Mark them on your GPS, if you have one. Else, make note on the Google map or Earth print-out. Rubber plantations give shade but tend to be boring and should only be used for short sections.
Take into account the length of run and walk you intend to set (see next point).
c. Length of walk and run:
The walk should be between ~4.5 and 6.5 km. Shorter is a bit of waste, taking into account how long the hounds travelled to the run site, more will take too much time.
The run should be between 7-10 km. If the run is short (7 km), also the walk should be on the short side, to avoid that runners will return well before the walkers. Occasionally, longer runs are set, at 11-12 km, but the Hares of such runs often end up on ice, unless the very long was an extra option (a day with 3 trails: Walk, Run and Extra long run).
The runners should be able to complete a run in about 1.5 hours. A run of 2 hours is considered too long. And, to ensure that we will have time for the circle, all walkers and runners must have finished before 17h00, else Hares will sit on ice. During the reccie on foot (see under d. below), it should take about a 3-hours walk to complete the entire run trail. If it takes more time, the run is likely to be too long (or you are an extremely slow walker).
d. Reccie on foot:
The most important part, and most time-consuming, of your day will be your reccie on foot. Most of the small trails you want to use are not accessible by cars and some not by motor bike either. And they are likely to be overlooked during the initial bike/car reccie. A walk along the entire trail is a must, therefore. Without it, setting a good run is almost impossible.
If you use a GPS, do not forget to switch on the Track log and reset the odometer of your GPS before you start. If you have no GPS, mark the approximate trail on your Google Earth print-out. It is also good to keep track of the time at important intersections. This will make it easier to cut out long and boring parts of the run, in case you found that in the end it had become too long.
Decide how about you want to go, a left loop, or a right loop, going close to a river (if any) and avoiding a certain busy road. But do not be too afraid to go into small trails if you see a nice one that you did not expect. It may lead you to unexpected gems that will make you famous as a hare.
All the time, while walking, keep an eye open for possible locations for:
checks and false trails (see 9d and 9e below);
ways to inter-connect parts of the run for a shorter walk (or vice versa: how to add extra bits to a walk to make it long enough for the runners);
better locations for a circle than the one you selected initially;
a possible location for a water stop (see f below).
The reccie of the run trail should not take longer than about 3 hours walking. So when setting an A to A, after about 1.5 hours walking, you should be on your way back.
If the run becomes too long, it may sometimes be possible to shorten it, by starting the run in a different location (in fact making it an A to B), if the starting point is just along the same road as the circle, so easy to find for the bus crew.
Never set check in crops or cultivated land, as this can cause much damage. Never lay the trail through crops, always around the edge and whenever possible avoid crops entirely. Be considerate.
f. Water stop:
Most Hounds (understandably) love it when there is a water stop, a location about halfway during the run with bottled water. If you have a private car that you could bring during the big day and which could take the water to the water stop location, a water stop would be much appreciated. Otherwise, as water stops are notoriously difficult to arrange, virgin Hares are recommended not to bother with a water stop.
a. Plot trails on Google map, Gmap-pedometer, or Google Earth:
After the reccie, it is good to try and plot the reccied trails onto Google Earth. This is easy when you used a GPS. Else it is more guess work, but it should be possible to recognize most of the trail if you marked it more or less correct on the print-outs that you brought along. The easiest to use is probably gmap-pedometer. Once you have marked the trail, check the lengths of run and walk. Hopefully, the length is not too far off the target, else there is still quite a bit to do on the day that the paper trail must be laid. If indeed too long, or too short, try and see at Gmap or Google Earth how the length can be adjusted. This is best done behind the computer and must then be verified on the paper laying day.
b. Inform the Hare razor where your run will take place
c. Set a day for laying the paper:
The best day for laying the paper trail is on the Saturday before the actual run day. A little earlier is possible, but one week before is definitely too much, as rains and wind could play havoc with the paper.
The trail must be clearly marked by vast quantities of shreddie (shredded paper). It takes at least 5kg (one large jute bag) of shreddie to set a run. Shreddie is available from numerous companies and diplomatic offices around the city and most hares have no trouble getting it. Check with the Hare razors to find out where to get some.
For some runs, notably for town runs, the use of shreddie is inappropriate: flour should be used as a substitute.
a. Before you leave:
If you had a successful reccie, laying the trail with paper is relatively easy. Before you leave remember:
to bring enough shreddie;
to bring enough water and sun block (laying the trail is a very hot business);
to bring your GPS (with spare batteries);
to bring print-outs of the run and walk you have planned;
b. Laying the shreddie on the run trail:
The run trail is laid by casting sufficient handfuls of shreddie over the course to be run. Shreddie should be spaced no more than 50 metres apart along roads/clearly identifiable trails, 30 metres apart in open country, 25 metres in scrub and 10 metres or closer in dense jungle: the more shreddie, the better. When laying shreddie, itis best to assume that the hounds have no intelligence.
Use plenty of checks and false trails. These are cunning traps set by the hares to put the hounds off the trail, the theory being to allow the slow, overweight, unfit and/or generally infirm runners to catch up, or even to reverse the field. A good run is one in which the slowest and fastest runner finish within a few minutes of each other. False trails slow the Hounds down by letting them run in the wrong direction, with the front runners covering the longest distance in the wrong directions. From a check, trails are set in different directions, requiring the front runners to check out all options. By the time they have found which trail is correct, the slower runners will have caught up.
A check has one correct trail and one or more wrong directions. Paper can be laid along the wrong trails (no more than 2 blobs), but not all incorrect trails need to be marked. If you are short of time, just mark a check, stop with paper for 70-100 metres and continue laying paper along your designated trail. It forces the runners to check out the other trails as well and, thus, slows them down.
The first blob of paper must be laid within about 100 metres from the check mark (circle around tree) in open country, 70 metres in scrub and 25 metres in dense jungle.
Never check in villages. When laying shreddie through villages always continue straight on in the direction than you entered. Villages should be avoided whenever possible.
e. False trails:
False trails are very effective in slowing down fast runners. At a junction, shreddie along the wrong trail should be naturally laid, but clearly visible, in the wrong direction. The shreddie in the correct direction is more hidden behind bushes or in high grass and laid at somewhat larger distance. The runners will naturally run along the trail following the wrong trail. After a while, the trail can be marked with an 'X', but this does not always need to be the case. Just laying 2-3 blobs and no more lets some hounds go for long distances before they realize that there is no more shreddie. Once they find out to have run in the wrong direction, they will come back calling “On Back”, with the result that the slowest runners at the back of the pack have suddenly become front runners.
f. Natural checks:
Another tactic that can be used is the natural check. When coming to a T-Junction or fork in a trail, delay laying shreddie for 25-50 meters. It slows the fast runners down as it forces them to check out all directions. Natural checks are convenient if the Hare is under time pressure as it does not require any preparation, nor does more than one trail has to be provided with shreddie.
g. Hash Halts:
Sometimes a Hash Halt needs to be used. The location is marked with an “H” and the Hounds will stop at this Hash Halt until the Hare decides to resume the running. The aim of the Hash halt is to keep fast and slow runners together and they are especially useful on parts of the trail where the pack is likely to be spread out. Hash Halts are often inserted after steep hills and monkey bridges, therefore. If they are forgotten, the Hare can always decide on an impromptu Hash Halt during the actual run.
h. Shreddie on the Walker’s trail
Not everyone is happy with a walker’s trail laid out with shreddie. It takes extra time for the Hares to lay the shreddie, but it makes the walking hare’s job a lot easier during the actual Hash day. A problem that does occur is that runners find the walker’s shreddie by accident and return far too early. They may also run a lot extra if they find walking paper that connects to the run trail near its end and they start running the walking trail in the opposite direction.
If you decide to mark the walking trail with shreddie, make sure that:
The shreddie is of different type or colour for walk and run trail; or
the walk trail is marked with spray painted arrows (but only on grass surface where it will disappear soon again); or
the shreddie is accompanied by clearly visible arrows showing the direction; and
there is a clear indication (for example by painting one or more clearly visible “W” on the walk trail).
Once again: It should be noted that spray paint must not be used on roads, buildings and trees, as the paint will remain for many years. Only spraying on grassy surfaces is permitted.
a. The bus leaves 14.00h sharp:
Being the Hare, it is good to be at the Caravelle before 14.00h. Without a hare, the bus driver won’t have a clue where to go. Some Hares prepare a small map for the driver, would then sit at the back of the bus and scream when the bus did not arrive at the designated place. Please note that the Hare is responsible for getting the bus to the run site, no one else.
b. Hare announcements before the run:
Hares are called into the circle before the run. The lead hare must explain what is going on. You can say whatever you like and string together a lot of nonsense, but your talk should at least include:
If the run is an A to A, or an A to B;
Who will be the walking hare and who will be the running hares;
If there will be a water stop;
The length of the run (if very long, some Hounds may prefer to walk);
It is also good to find out who are virgin runners/walkers so they can get some extra attention from the Hares.
The runners will leave first, followed by the walkers.
c. On the Walk:
The Walking Hare usually walks upfront and the pack follows him or her. This may not always be automatic. Hashers are a stubborn lot and some may think that they know what they are doing (they usually don’t). If there are walkers using high heels as sport shoes, they may start trailing. The Walking Hare must keep an eye on such laggards and, if necessary, send them back to the bus through a shortcut route (if possible). Keep in mind: No one should get lost.
d. On the Run:
The Hare(s) designated as Running Hares must ensure that the more intellectually challenged members of the pack do not get irretrievably lost. Note that the Running Hare is not a guide. Allow the Hounds to find the proper trail themselves at every check and false trail, guiding them only if they look likely to get lost. With one Running Hare, it is best to function as sweeper, keeping control from the back. A second running hare (if any) could run up front, to keep an eye on the front running bastards (FRB).
e. The circle:
The circle is not the Hares’ concern. You will be called in, for a proper abuse session, where you get criticised for all your hard work, probably by hounds that have never yet set a run in their life. Run discussers are encouraged to score your run in the range 1…10, but usually you will end up with a nice minus score. And if someone was lost, you may well end up on ice. Ah well, it is all in a day’s work. And privately, many will tell you what a good job you have done!
It is always nice if the Hares have done something extra for the circle. This is especially appreciated on National days, birthdays, Anzac day, etc. etc. The occasion is not so important, what counts is the extra which could be a bottle of whiskey for down-downs, clogs with jenever (for the Dutch), a special song, whatever.
f. The ON ON:
It is a tradition for the Hounds and Hares to go and dine together after the run, the ON ON. This tradition is no longer very strong, but usually up to 12 people will join the ON ON and the hares will be asked where they have arranged the ON ON. It is a good idea to pick a restaurant within walking distance from the Caravelle. The bus could also drop hashers at the Pham Nhu Lao area, which is generally much cheaper.
Doing a hareset costs a great deal of time, as well as money –mainly for transport to the run site. Many Hares use their own transport for this purpose and are happy to provide a service to the hashers of Saigon. However, not everyone is in the happy position to have access to car and motor bike and some may be unable to afford the rental of a Xe Om or taxi. Under such conditions, the Saigon Hash will contribute to the rental costs. The Hash will reimburse you up to a maximum of VND 1 million, provided you can show receipts from Xe Om or taxi. Do not forget to negotiate the price beforehand and get a receipt even if it’s a handwritten note from the xe om driver. Vietnamese hashers on the bus on Sundays can help you to negotiate. Vinasun taxi has some good set prices for a certain amount of hours and then an additional hourly rate on top. There are also buses out to many of the places too - see bus map from Fahasa or enquire at the bus station at Ben Thanh market - they do speak some English.
If you are careful, you will probably spend much less than the one million. Good, because the Hash is not a rich boys club. If you are with a larger group, you will probably need to use taxis and your actual costs could exceed the one million. Tough luck, but do not forget: Hares pay only half the run fee on the Sunday of their run.
It's a sad fact of Hashing life that a minority of Hashers set the majority of runs. Whenever possible, when you have become an experienced Hare, try to seduce a virgin Hare into accompanying you and train them up. You never know - they may turn into a haresetting stalwart.