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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Hash House Harriers - The Drinking Club With the Running Problem

“Are you?” The call comes through the trees some distance away. “On one!” I shout back and continue running and scrutinising the path for blobs of flour.  No – this isn’t my latest baking disaster or warning that I’m in a bad mood. I’m on a hash. Not ON hash, but A hash. A Hare-and-Hounds trail has been laid and I’m following it with 8 others, all at different speeds and with various energies but all out for a good old trot around the countryside with the promise of beer. Oh yes, there’s beer. 

A lot of my runs over the last year have been targeted and precise with specific goals and paces. Gels to eat at certain points, a certain speed to maintain, chips on shoes and GPS on wrist. I like knowing what my targets are, but sometimes being so precise can take the joy out of the running.

Which is why I’ve been running with Spa H3. I haven’t left Northbrook AC, but I have joined another club. But not a running club. A drinking club. With a running problem. 

It’s not a secret society, in fact it’s the largest running club in the world with chapters in many different countries. However, in common with secret societies it has its own language, code names and secret markings. It’s a bit like being a secret agent but tracking down blobs of flour and beer rather than fingerprints and spies. 

An example of a HHH marking ...

I’d first heard about hashing in Running With The Kenyans, the book by Adharanand Finn. It sounded relaxed (beer) and sociable (beer) which had made me get onto Google and search for a local chapter to run (drink beer) with. When the search results came back I was astounded at the number of different chapters around, how had I not heard about these before or even seen them? Louise of Abradypus had stumbled over a hash in progress in London and was invited along although she’s since been keeping quiet about whether she went back again and about whether she’d been given a Hash Name. (More about this later)

I’d emailed and was invited along to a run. I didn’t know what to expect. The runs start and end at a pub and I’d turned up early and seen two men dash off dropping flour as they went. It wasn’t an off-the-cuff version of Great British Bake off with another runner expected with the eggs and sugar, but a live hash meaning that the hares were laying the trail as they ran and we’d all be following the trail and trying to catch them. Basically the runs always follow a Hare and Hounds style format. A trail is laid and the hounds all follow it.  

When you see this, you know you're nearly there!
The trail is laid with blobs of flour – easy to see and easy to remove – but there are usually plenty of false trails to give the faster runners a good run around. Walkers are welcome and if the trail has been laid well then by the time the runners have investigated all the false trails, the walkers may well be some way in front.

Out on a run it’s not uncommon to hear hashers refer to“shiggy” (‘rural’ mud!), “FRBs” (Fast Running Bastards), “Down downs” (Chugging your beer) amongst others and there are a host of special signs - usually marked out in flour. Oh and each member has their own hash name. Usually an offensive name. Oh and there are songs. Drinking songs. It does sound rather like a secret society. But there’s more drinking and running than I’d usually associate with a secret society. It’s not very secret. You just find the largest bar tab and trace it back. 

And there’s Circle Time. This is where the punishments get handed out. Did you take a shortcut? Didn’t shout out loud enough? ‘Foul The Trail’? Well then, you’ll be handed a cup and told to ‘Down, down’. 

You can't trust a H3 around a kids playground. They just HAVE to have a go on the slide ...
Sound childish? It is. And it’s massive fun. But it's not new. Although it's based loosely on Hare & Hounds, the first Hash House Harriers chapter was started in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in a restaurant (Hash House) by an Englishman called A. S. Gispert  He decided he and his friends needed some exercise to go along with all the eating. And although famously the runs nowadays 'have no rules' (although don't believe that or you'll be drinking beer fines!), the original rules of the Hash House Harriers (source) were:

    (a) to promote physical fitness amongst its members
    (b) to get rid of weekend hangovers
    (c) to acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it with beer
    (d) to persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel

And it's all gone from there, from running off a hangover to becoming the largest running club in the world. There are approximately 2000 clubs running in almost every country in the world (source) and if you ever fancy an informal, non-competitive run around your local area check out your local H3 here. I can promise you'll have lots of fun. 

But be sure to bring your Hash Cash and to drink your Down Downs like a good hasher. 

Saturday, 26 December 2015

On the 12th Mile of Xmas The Landlord Gave to Me ...

On the 12th Mile of Xmas The Landlord Gave to Me ...

12 miles of running (in Santa suits)
11 cars a tooting (backseats full of children waving at the Santas)
10 minutes chatting (per pub)
99 bewildered shoppers (stopping and staring)
8 minutes of beard (after pub stop until beard discarded around my neck like a fuzzy scarf)
67 Santas drinking (There were SIXTY SEVEN Santas in the run!)
6 bells a jingling (At the end of Santa hats – it sounded like a whole forest of reindeer sleighs)

5 warm full puuuuuuubs! (serving the 67 Santas!)
4 toilet stops (Cold air and lots of diet coke!)
3 pounds sterling (per mulled wine)
2 Twitter buddies (Hi Clare! Hi Kevlar!)

... And a mulled wine in a warm pub!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Running: The Q&As we REALLY want to know

I’ve decided to do a question and answers blog post. I absolutely LOVE this on other people’s blogs. However, instead of asking all the usual stuff I’ve decided to ask all the stuff we REALLY want to know about.

I’d love to read yours! Answer the questions on your own page or blog and post the link in comments so we can all have a good nose!

Most embarrassing injury?
Probably hurting my back during Paris marathon training. This sounds fairly ordinary, except the reason I hurt my back was because I’d tried to do a long run during the floods. I had shrugged off the knee deep water across one lane. Pah – stupid floods ruining my average pace! But I’d come to another lane which was full of incredibly deep water so I’d tried to avoid it by running along the bank ... which was lined with drainage ditches. Full of my Smug-I’m-Doing-A-Long-Run confidence I’d attempted a leap across the drainage ditch, missed completely, landed in the ditch, face down in the mud. And with a jarred back. Yep. I’d incurred a running injury because of my rubbish jumping. 

Or possibly that time I got my arse stung by stinging nettles in a marathon because … nah. That’s another story …

Running total of toenails? Are they all the right colour?
I have 4 pink toenails. The other ones are multicoloured or MIA.

Have you ever had an Al Fresco toilet moment?
All the time. I should have shares in Andrex. Or possibly in Bushes-With-Big-Soft-Leaves.

Dream race?
I’d like to have a crack at the Great Wall marathon. Also Western States. Ooh and also the Red Bull Steeplechase. 

Best tip for beginners?
Run slow. REALLY slow. No – slower than that. The speed will come.

Running secret? ... until now. 
Don’t wear underwear! It’ll chafe!

Biggest mistake I’ve made? 
See above. Wearing underwear. I was fine for 1000s of miles until mile 5 in a 20 mile run when previous underwear turned into sandpaper. The result was … unpleasant. I was also on a straight piece of canal path without anywhere secluded to remove underwear. I ended up hiding under a bridge and having to strip down to remove offending items while keeping an eye out for dog walkers and narrrowboats. 

Best post-race drink?
A SMUG one. With alcohol in.

Have you ever got lost during a race?
Plenty of times. Usually during trail runs. I added 4 miles onto a marathon once.  

If you could have a running slogan or motto what would it be?
Probably “Think of the glory and try not to poo yourself.”

Don't forget to answer the questions on your blog and post the link in comments so we can all have a good nose!

Review: My Protein Works - Whey Protein 80 & Genesis PreWorkout

Review: My Protein Works sent me the products to review. I said exactly what I thought and I wasn't paid to review these ... trust me, I'm a triathlete.

As I’m sure you know, there are many benefits to having powdered nutrients available in your kitchen. Gone are the days when protein powder was just associated with muscle men wanting to bulk up. Powdered nutrition is now recognised as something that is easy and convenient when you don’t necessarily want to make a meal or open a can to get your protein requirements. 

However, there are multiple brands on the market and many appear to be selling the same things repackaged. There are several sacks, pouches and tubs in my cupboard all boasting to be the best, have the best ingredients and to do better things than all the others. I haven’t noticed a huge difference between them, I have to admit. In fact, I’m pretty superficial. I check that the product does what I want … and then I go on taste, If I can mix it into cookies or puddings so much the better.

The Protein Works contacted me to ask if I wanted to try 2 of their powder mixes. I considered the flavours (see I AM shallow) … and said yes please. The Protein Works sent me a 500g pouch of Whey Protein 80 (Banoffee Pie) and 250g of Genesis PreWorkout (Tropical Punch). Here’s what I thought:

The Protein Works: Genesis PreWorkout - Tropical Punch flavour.
The Protein Works promotes this product as being ideal for strength, speed and endurance which are all things I value in my running. The strength to keep going and the speed and endurance to knock out a good (for me!) time so this was of interest. 
I don’t tend to have specific pre-workout routine. Before a marathon or an ultra I tend to shovel in a flapjack and possibly a banana and I’m ready to go. However, after reading the (VERY enthusiastic) reviews I decided that if it does what they say, then it’s something I’m willing to invest in. I also like the idea of being REALLY enthusiastic about exercise especially at this time of year when it tends to be a bit chilly, usually raining and I’m expected to go out training in a single layer of lycra. 

What do The Protein Works say?
The Protein Works says that it’s Genesis Pre Workout™ “is a high potency formula that challenges current pre workout sports nutrition boundaries and thinking”. It doesn’t say which boundaries or thinking (hopefully not the banned performance enhancing drugs kind of boundaries) but they’re enthusiastic about it being their “most advanced pre workout formula yet.” 
The product contains over 20 active ingredients including several I had never heard of but which sounded properly scientific and slightly alarming iBCAA, Arginine Alpha Keto-glutarate, Beta Alanine, Citrulline Malate, Siberian Ginseng. 
It sounded AMAZING but I was beginning to think it was probably going to be wasted on me.
Quite possibly the smallest scoop EVER

Expert dosage or beginner dosage?

The scoop size is very small and there’s an ‘expert’ dosage and a ‘beginner’ dosage which scared me a bit. It also asked me ‘to consult with a medical professional as the formula is VERY POTENT.’  But it also made it sound a bit exciting and as though it was going to make a big impact on my running. Was this going to be the equivalent of me discovering fuelling with gels on my long marathon runs? Can I expect 6 minute miles up the MASSIVE hills around here rather than the usual 8s or 9s? Hold onto your Strava records everyone …

How did it taste? 

I’d chosen the Fruit punch flavour and to be honest The Protein Works had nailed this. It was just like the orange and pink wrapped sweets you used to find in the post office as a child! However, it is a VERY strong flavour even with the beginner dosage in the recommended amount of water and - like me - you will probably taste it for an hour afterwards. However it was a great addition to unsweetened banana oatmeal cookies especially for a pre-run snack!

Price: £12.99 for 100g (10 servings)

Find out more info or buy Genesis PreWorkout here

It tasted just like these (Source)

Whey Protein 80 - Banoffee Pie flavour

This is The Protein Works premium version of the most popular form of protein shake. It has a biological value (a value which shows how easily the protein can be used in protein synthesis) which is higher than free-range eggs, chicken or beef. It has over 80% protein content and has been micro-filtered and not heat treated to ensure it’s very pure. It has also won awards; UKs Number 1 brand ( and awarded ‘Best protein’ at the 2014 FSN awards. 

What did I think?
I’m going to hold my hands up and say I don’t know a lot about protein powders. I use them as they’re an easy source of protein and I know that replenishing protein after a hard workout run is important, especially as you only have a short window of time to do it (within 45 minutes of finishing exercise but the sooner the better) and they’re convenient for me to use especially when I’m pushed for time. 
Often at face value there doesn’t seem that much to choose between the ingredients in the different brands but I was reassured by the awards that this powder had won and the assurances of quality. However, I’m quite shallow about these things and what is important to me is taste. If I’m going to have to use a powder and there are a lot of similar products, then I am going to choose the one that tastes the best to me. 

But did it taste of PIE?
And to me, this product is a winner as the ‘Banoffee Pie’ flavouring actually tasted like banoffee pie. I prefer to have my powders mixed into a natural yoghurt rather than in a  shake if I’m at home and this was amazing. 

Price: £10.99 for 500g (20 servings)

Find out more or buy it here