It seems like a lifetime ago that we would bravely / foolishly go out into the blistering heat of the Saudi Arabian desert to cross the rugged terrain and treacherous conditions in our best running shoes.
The Sulaimaniyah Hash House Harriers were the small group that ran these gatherings every Thursday for the British workers who were living and working in the Middle East. Looking back it seems now as though it served as a strong community of friends for these men and women to have somewhere to go and unwind from their busy working week.
There are a few things I’d like to mention about the HHH, which I suppose is the reason for this blog post. I’ve decided to break it into bite size parts to make it easier for the reader to make sense of it all, strange as it may seem.
The actual run itself was around three/four miles long and there was also a walk that the younger children / older adults could take part in if they weren’t able or willing to take part in the full run.
Laying the Trail
Each company would each take a turn of “laying the trail”. This was normally organised by a few willing members of staff, or in our case it was my dad, my older brother and myself who took the buckets of flour into the desert on the Wednesday to prepare for the Thursday run. We would lay a small line of flour every 5 to 10 yards to allow the runners to follow it. Another part of the run was the “falsie” which was where you would create a fork in the trail with one of the trails leading to a dead end (I know, dangerous in 120ºC in a desert). The other trail (being the correct one) would lead to a “water check” which was also prepared by the company that led the trail. This was where you would get to enjoy the sliced watermelon, oranges and cool juice and water that you craved so much from running in the heat with such a dry mouth. Then after around 15 minutes of cooling down, you would run back to the car and head home.
Another of the typical rituals of the HHH was that every week there would be some kind of public display, where someone from each workplace would be subjected to wearing a toilet seat over their neck and would be covered in ice cold water and ice cubes for something they maybe said or did to another person. This only once happened to me as my dad had asked all the members of the HHH to sing “Happy Birthday” to me on my birthday. I think my dad had the ice & toilet seat humiliation when he had achieved his 100th hash run.
T Shirts, etc. .
One of the other things that the HHH did really well was that every run had a number and a theme so that they would all be remembered in some way. For example there would be a halloween run on the Thursday nearest in October, a St. Valentines run, Guy Fawkes, Christmas and New Year etc. As a way of marking these special runs, there were t shirts designed by the community of runners who would make them and sell them at the beginning of the run. My brother actually had one of his designs turned into a t shirt for one of the runs during the beginning of the gulf war in 1992.