How to Set a Run - edited by SpermBanks 17 May 17.
Ever wondered why some hashes are great and others just so so? A really great hash depends on a lot of things, many of which you don't have much control over, such as the weather, who turns up and someone doing something entertaining and memorable such as falling into the deep shiggy. But the hare can do a lot towards making it a good hash by making a trail appropriate to the occasion; the hounds can do a lot by remembering to call and help "backmark" so that the pack stays reasonably close together. By "backmarking" is meant rubbing out falls trails from a check-in so that laggards and lazy bastards don't run further than they need to. You can also put a stone or a stick on a 360 to mark the true trail. I haven't worked out yet how to indicate the true trail from a back-check.
Look here for details of the signs used. Remember that it is essential to keep the runners together as much as possible, so slow down the FRBs and help out the lazy bastards!
Before we talk about how to lay a trail, lets think why people are going to run your trail because that is the foundation for the difference between a good trail and a bad one.
The basic idea of a hash is to have fun so if the pack isn't enjoying itself you've wasted your time and theirs
When I said pack I meant the whole pack not just those front running bastards (FRBs).
If you are at the back of the pack and not so fit it really is not fun to walk 10 miles and end up at the end just as everyone else is going home. Also if you are old or fat or whatever you probably aren't as good at climbing HUGE walls, cliffs and things like that.
On the other hand if you are a dumb FRB then it sucks if you just run around the block so a good trail will have lots of loops, circle jerks and back checks (ideally just over a fence) to keep the FRBs frustrated and the rest of the pack happy.
Now we've got that out of the way here is some more detail on the actual mechanics and techniques. Since Rule 1 of the Hash is "there are no rules" feel free to ignore any and all of them.
Planning the Trail
What's the Aim?
Setting a good trail is easy as long as you think about what you're doing and who is likely to turn up. Essentially, for a normal weekday run, you want a trail of about 1 to 2 miles for the walkers, about 3 to 4 miles for the runners with sufficient false trails and checkbacks to make any fast FRBs run4 to 5 miles. That means quite a lot of extra false trail if you think there will be a lot of fast runners there, but hardly any at all will be needed if you're confident that everyone who turns up will be running at much the same speed. Generally, too much false trail is better than too little; you can always point people in the right direction if it's taking too long. Subtract a little distance if there are long stretches through woodland with poor trails, or other areas which will seriously slow people down. Make sure you keep the pack together as much as possible.
Ideally the trail should include as many as possible of the following features:
• runners' trail basically the same as the walkers' trail, but with lots of extra false trails and loops evenly distributed throughout the trail so that people run past the walkers every few minutes and there's a sense that the two groups are actually somehow connected;
• as much of the trail as possible on footpaths rather than roads;
• some pretty and/or interesting places;
• the trail should not be simply straight out and straight back, but twist and turn in unlikely ways so that even those who know the area are uncertain where they will be headed next.
Sadly, the geography of most areas means you can't achieve everything and you'll have to make compromises, but it's worth bearing these points in mind when you're working out where to go. The starting point must have plenty of parking space nearby and be reasonably placed for wherever you intend people to go for the On-Inn.
Setting a good trail is easy as long as you think about what you're doing and who is likely to turn up.
Making Sure People Get There
It's essential to send accurate details to the HareRaiser in good time, including the starting point and directions by car. Ideally this should be done more than a week in advance so that it can be announced at the hash the week before. Remember that the instructions have to be clear so that visitors can find it - don't just assume that everyone knows "because we've been there before so many times".
Equipment For Setting a Typical Trail
You will usually want about 4 bags of flour: you'll usually use 2 or 3, but it's a nightmare getting halfway round and realising you've not got enough left. If the trail goes over a lot of open fields or through woods without well-defined paths, you'll need some extra. To make blobs, most people use a spoon, but another idea is to dip in a tennis ball and throw it at the ground (or keep it in the hand to knock against rough surfaces which it would bounce off in random directions). To draw letters and symbols, one method is to get an old milk bottle, cut a 5mm hole in the top and fill it with flour. No matter what the weather, never use anything permanent - we want to be eco-friendly!
Setting the Trail
Unless you're expecting a lot of really fast runners and have a huge number of false trails, it shouldn't take much more than 2 hours to set the trail at a fast walk or slow trot, plus any extra for setting a walkers' trail if you've not been able to do that at the same time. Another option is to give the walkers a map. If it takes you much longer than that, there's a fair risk either that you're going to have trouble keeping up when you come to run it later, or that you'll get complaints that it's too long if you don't have some shortcuts up your sleeve.
Importantly, the point of the trail is not, as some people say, to confuse the hounds. It's to get everyone round a trail safely and back to the beer stop at round about the same time, whether they are Olympic marathon runners on a mission or average folk strolling round with a pram. That does mean a battle of wits, trying to make the front runners go significantly further than slower runners, but it doesn't mean simply letting people get lost. If the FRBs on the hash swear at you because you are gently strolling along and they're sweating as they run past you for the fifth time, you're probably doing it right. If everyone's milling around muttering that they can't find flour anywhere and not even attempting to run, you're probably doing it wrong.
Where to Put Flour
Assume that the runners are blind, lazy and stupid. Most of the time, they will give up very quickly if they don't find flour and just mill around uselessly. Even if there's no possible place for the trail to have turned off, if they don't find flour within 50 paces of the last blob they will start to worry and if they don't find flour within 100 paces there's a very good chance that they will just stop and wander back. Blobs usually need to be much closer together than that and (most of the time) in obvious places: for example, by lamp posts (people's eyes get drawn to them and there's light if the hash is at night), on trees or big tree stumps and placed consistently (if they start on one side of the road, keep them on that side). Exactly how frequent depends on the type of terrain and the number of opportunities to turn off the path, but every 20 to 40 paces or so is reasonable in most places in town; you can get away with further apart on long stretches of path with no turnings. On the other hand, once they really get running, runners sometimes fail to notice that the flour has stopped. There's not an enormous amount that you can do about this, but the ends of false trails and checkbacks need to be clearly marked. It's also worth putting specific false trail markers between points where the outbound trail comes close to a later section of trail, to try to avoid people veering off course and cutting a large section off the trail.
If you put checks near other sections of trail, clear false trail marks (X's) in between are essential - in this case you should probably put more than one X down (for example on both sides of the road) to be on the safe side. If you're going through woods, unless there is an extremely clear path, you will need an enormous amount of flour or people will get lost. Each blob should be clearly visible from the last - that may mean flour on almost every tree you go past in some places. Arrows are very helpful from time to time to confirm the general direction.Even with grassy meadows it's usually easier to mark the trail round the edge. However, if you really must cross a field, the hounds will lose the trail very easily. Put an arrow at the start of the field giving the right general direction and keep the blobs close together. Rocks, patches of bare earth and cowpats are a lot easier to spot flour on than grass.
"Slowing Down" the FRBs
To keep the faster and slower runners together without the faster ones simply getting annoyed, you need to get the faster people to run further than others. The two main ways of doing this are checkpoints and backchecks, both of which get at least some of the faster runners going the wrong way and then coming back. These need to come reasonably frequently throughout the length of the trail. Try to avoid setting too many checks at the start and then not enough in the second half.
No matter how carefully you think through your checks and backchecks, you'll usually find that some people get well ahead, so you'll almost certainly need one or twoboxes. Hopefully, nobody will be waiting more than a minute or two at these. The best places are either somewhere with a good view. Everyone is already together when they restart so there's no point in setting false trails from a box - that just leaves most people hanging around for even longer and lets some of the FRBs get ahead again. Another option now and again is a eagle/turkey split, giving some extra distance ("eagle") which runners can choose whether to cover or not.
Setting the Walkers' Trail
Assume that the walkers are blind, lazy, stupid and too busy chatting to take much notice of flour or maps. Put arrows with a W at each junction in the hope that they will notice, but ideally you should have a walkers' hare with a map to lead them round. If you don't get round to setting a walkers' trail and just give them a map, you might also give them a stick of chalk or some flour to mark the trail for any latecoming walkers.
When It Rains
If you set the trail the night before and it rains, bad luck. There's a fair chance you're going to have to set it again immediately before the hash. You can do what you can to put the flour in sheltered spots to minimise the risk, but a lot of the time nature will beat you. If the rain is really hard on the evening of the run, you may have to admit defeat and just lead the hardy few around the trail. If any of your trail has survived, you can point to it to prove that you really did try. A related risk is street cleaners - in urban areas, there's a fair chance that large portions of your trail will be washed off by the council or locals if you set it too early. It's usually best to set trails in the centre of town on the night.
Running the Trail Hare
Assume that someone will turn up late or get lost. Put arrows right at the start to point people in the right direction. Make sure that each check and each major turn is obviously back-marked once the front of the pack has found the right trail so that the people behind stand a chance of catching up. Otherwise, you may have to go out looking for them later. If there are two hares, it's good to try to have one fairly near the front (to mark the checks when the right way has been found and to make sure that the FRBs don't do outrageous shortcuts which ruin your carefully planned trail) and one near the back (to point the really slow people in the right direction and look for the ones who have got lost).
If some people are taking far too long (everyone should be at the beer stop in under an hour, or much less if it's far from there to the end) it's probably a good idea to offer them shortcuts, as long as you're certain they will find the trail again at the end of them.
Assume that the rest of the hounds are blind, lazy, stupid and deaf. If you're on the right trail, shout "on on" as loud as you can - frequently. You may think that the fact that you shouted "on on" when you first found the trail and have not stopped or turned round would be enough to make clear to people behind you that you think you're on trail. Don't believe it. There's a pretty good chance that if they've gone for 3 seconds without seeing flour for themselves, they will grind to a halt and shout "are you on?" until someone reassures them. Remember that if you can't keep them running, you'll have to wait longer for them at the next box and that it will be that much longer until you reach the beer.
Middle of the Pack
Remember that there may be people behind you. If you see flour, shout "on on" to encourage them along and give them confidence that they're still going the right way. When you come to a check-in, don't just all stop dead until the trail is found - follow the FRBs out along the various routes so that there's always someone within earshot of the next person ahead and you don't have to start checking all over again because nobody heard the FRB shout "on on". Some people's voices don't carry very far, especially round corners or against traffic noise. If the hare isn't with you, mark the check before heading off so that those people behind who don't see you go can find it. You can use twigs or stones to make an arrow or kick the flour of the check in the correct direction.
Just because you think you're at the back, it's not necessarily true. If you're on trail, shout "on on" every so often. Not only will this help people who are so far behind you that they are out of sight, but it will remind people ahead that they need to make sure you're going in the right direction and to wait for you at the next hold. Don't wait until you're lost and then shout "are you?" Chances are that by that time the people ahead will be out of earshot and it will be too late.
You know - arrows. Things that (usually) point people in the right direction. Often combined with letters indicating exactly who ought to be following them: W (walkers), R (runners) or E/T (Eagles/Turkeys). It's important to make sure that the direction is clear: all too often they point somewhere between two different tracks, leading to unpleasant things being said of the hare.
Putting down arrows (or other marks) once the correct trail has been found at check-ins, the start of backchecks and any other place where the correct trail may not be obvious to people who have fallen behind. In the absence of flour or chalk, stick arrows or kicking through the check in the appropriate direction also work.
The place where the hounds stop for beer. Often preceded by warnings BN (beer near), BVN (beer very near) and the like. A box with a B in it is recommended.
The marks that the hounds normally follow. Little circular, well, blobs of flour, frequently laid down with a spoon of flour, or by throwing a flour-covered tennis ball at the ground.
An extra bit of trail for the FRBs. The blobs carry on past a turning and continue for some distance, at the end of which is a mark - a circle with a cross in it. The hounds go back look to the sides for a trail - the first few blobs will generally be out of sight, either round a corner or otherwise hidden (behind lampposts is often good) so that they are not visible to people naïvely following the backcheck.
A junction marked by a circle, where the trail might go in any of several directions. The wrong directions may have pointers from the circle with false trails marked with X's at their ends. If it is just a plain circle it is called a "360". When the hounds find the right one, they (hopefully) shout "on on" to call all the others in the right direction and someone (hopefully) backmarks the check.
A marked wrong way from a checkpoint. Usually up to three blobs ended by an X. Note that in other hashes, there may be different numbers of blobs before you're "on" and the ends of false trails are often not marked.
Front Running Bastard. One of those people you occasionally see heading over the brow of the next hill with irritating ease.
The person who set the trail and normal target of everyone's abuse.
Place marked by a square where everyone waits, hopefully not very long, until the others have caught up. Try to think of a joke to tell at this point.
Hound: Someone following the trail.
On on: What people are supposed to shout when they're on trail and see a blob of flour.
On-Inn: (1) The last sign on the run. It can be a simple arrow. It says "Go back to the On-On by the shortest route. (2) The place we go after the run for the booze-up/meal after the run.
Eagle trail: An extra loop, usually marked T for the fast runners who think that the trail might otherwise be too short.
Turkey trail: A shorter loop, for lazy bastards.
Walker: A remarkably slow, delicate creature who needs to have a special short path marked for it if it's going to make it to the beer before midnight.
Down-down: Both a reward and a punishment for those who transgress secret rules, or have a birthday or something equally heinous, such as wearing new shoes - in this latter case the beer must be drunk from the offending shoe.