So you want to be a hare…the (fairly) complete guide to setting a trail in NYC
by Roy Gilbert
Planning the on in.
First decide on the general location of the hash. Avoid an area used the previous week or the following week if that’s already listed. If it doesn’t rain the previous trail may still be there.
If you are setting a New York City, Greater Gotham or Winter Wednesday hash you can set it in any borough. Brooklyn and Queens hashes are to be set in those boroughs respectively and the Summer Sundays are anywhere apart from Manhattan.
Next decide on an on in. Planning a trail is a little easier if you know where it is going to end.
Size does matter. Make sure the place is large enough for the size of the run. Summer Wednesday runs can attract up to 70 hashers. Winter runs and outer borough hashes are smaller.
Beer. Hashers have finely developed taste buds and many of them do not appreciate Bud, Miller etc. Choose a place that has at least one micro brew or Bass. Beer is the biggest expense as hashers are a thirsty lot. Most bars are willing to give us special prices. Most bars are pretty empty on a Sunday afternoon; 50 hashers on a Wednesday is a lot of business so you are in a strong bargaining position. So bargain.
Negotiate for a cheaper beer like Bud, Miller etc and a micro like Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada etc. We drink more of the micros so it’s important to get a good price for the micro. Try and get the micros for $13.00 a pitcher and the cheaper beer for $11.00. If they don’t have pitchers $3.50 a pint is a good price for micros and $2.50 for the cheaper ones.
Choose somewhere you can easily get a cab. It’s the hare’s job to get the bags from the start to the on in. In the outer boroughs it’s a good idea to choose subway stop where there’s a car service. Failing this make sure you have the number of a car service. Of course, if you have your own car you can start wherever you like. While an A to A run solves the bag problem nicely, it does go against the grain.
How many hares?
Most runs have two hares. Don’t try and hare on your own unless you are certain it will be a small pack. It’s easy enough to set a trail by yourself but the work begins after you have set the trail. You have to get the bags from the start to the on in without leaving them unattended: keep the water and beer flowing, and hashers drink at a pretty quick pace the first hour or two: collect hash cash from everybody: order the food: and keep a close check on the tab and pay the bar tender and food delivery person.
For the big Wednesday summer runs three hares is not a bad idea, especially if you are a novice.
If you are a virgin hare don’t attempt to set a trail without the help of an experienced hare. If you are a virgin hare and your co-hare drops out and you can’t find a replacement call the hare raiser and he/she will find someone to help.
How long to set a trail?
A general rule of thumb is that it takes twice as long to set a trail as it does to run one. You also need to allow time to get back to the start so, if you are planning on having the pack run about 45 minutes, plan on about 2 hours to set the trail. You should recce the run in advance so you know where you are going when you set the trail.
Chalk or flour?
Trails are set in flour and/or chalk. The advantage of chalk is that you can see the exact direction. The disadvantage is that it disappears instantly when it rains. If it looks like rain use flour, and use plenty of it. If the whole run is in flour you’ll need three or four five-pound bags. For chalk, never use classroom chalk. It’s hard to see and disappears very quickly. Sidewalk chalk is acceptable but only use white. The other colors may be pretty but they are difficult to see, especially at night. But the best is sheet rock (also known as plaster board or dry wall). It’s free. You can pick up big chunks of it at construction sites. If you’re lucky enough to set the trail in the snow, use a mixture of flour and Kool-Aid (about 3 parts flour to 1 part Kool-Aid). White flour on snow is not a good idea. The Kool-Aid adds color.
Post 9/11/01 Comment
The use of flour in these "post-apocalyptic" days is frowned upon by those who have to check to see if it is anthrax or what not. Hashers around the world have gotten into some trouble. Toilet paper has been used successfully as a substitute on rainy days.
Setting the trail
Mark the start with a circle with an X in it (a check mark). If the start is a subway station rather than an exact street location put arrows from the exits to the start. This is particularly important at those stations with exits several hundred yards apart.
Contrary to what you might have experienced on some runs there should not be any doubt where the trail goes, except at checks. Put down plenty of marks. There’s no such thing as too many trail marks. All marks should be clear; marks should not be hidden; don’t put marks in the street where a car might be parked later; mark all corners; also put marks mid block, especially on longer blocks. When using flour in parks, forest, open areas etc the next mark should be visible. If it is raining of may rain put the (flour) marks in places where it will stay – on trees, in dry spots, against buildings – and use plenty of it.
If you’re into being abused by the pack or like multiple down downs, ignore this section. More runs have been screwed up because of bad checks than anything else. The idea of a check is to delay the FRBs (front running bastards) and bring the pack together. The idea is not for the pack to spend twenty minutes trying to find a mark five blocks away. Nor is the idea to make runners give up and call the hotline.
You can choose one mark and you’re on (i.e. no false trails), three marks and you’re on or you don’t have to tell the pack anything. You can also mark false trails or not. For novice trail setters it’s best to stick with three and you’re on with all falses marked.
A check is always easy if you know where the trail is going. It’s a lot harder for the pack who don’t have this inside information. Even a basic check at a crossroads has eight possibilities – both sides of each street, including a back check. If the first mark is not in a straight line from the check, say the first mark is one block north and some way down the block to the west, there are now 23 possibilities. So it’s a good idea to have the first mark in a straight line from the check.
Mid block checks are acceptable but bear in mind that even with the first mark in a straight line there are twelve possibilities. Checks in places like Times Square are also difficult to solve as there are so many possibilities.
Another common mistake is to put the first mark too far from the check or the third mark (if it’s three and you’re on) too far away. The first mark should not be more than one typical N – S block from the check and the third mark (if it’s three and you’re on) should not be more than two N – S blocks from the check.
The trail itself
It is up to you how long you make the trail but remember nobody ever complains about a short run (assuming it’s well set). You should aim for four to five miles. As a general rule the FRBs should be in after about 45 minutes and the last ones not much more than an hour.
If you really want to set a long trail you should include a chicken and eagle split. Don’t forget to allow extra time to set this. Somewhere along the trail (usually towards the end but this is up to you) the trail splits in two. The two trails can either meet up again or they can go their separate ways to the on in. Where it splits mark one direction C for chicken and the other one E for Eagle. The chicken is the short trail and the eagle the long one. You can make the eagle as long as you like but it should still be well marked. Also put a C or E next to the first few marks after the split in case people miss the actual split.
You can take the trail wherever you like, over walls, through the undergrowth, across streams, through Grand Central, across the Brooklyn Bridge. Avoid long straight stretches – boring. Limit the number of times you take the trail across the avenues because you have to keep stopping and it breaks the pack up. Zigzagging across the avenues is not a good idea.
Make sure you don’t double back on yourself. At a check people may be checking several blocks from the check. If the trail goes too near to a previous check they might, inadvertently, miss out part of the trail.
Beer Checks. Having a beer check along the way is always greatly appreciated by the pack. Especially if it includes water on a hot humid day. Ice cream, mint shots, cookies also go over well. If you are expecting more than 20 people, you need three hares to include a beer check (two for bags and one for the check).
At the start.
Get a head count. You will appreciate having done that later when you order the pizza.
Pass out chalk. This enables checks to be marked or extra arrows to be put down if you haven’t marked the trail well or if marks have disappeared.
Virgins and visitors. Make sure that anyone new to Hashing in New York knows how our trails are set. Don’t forget to tell them about the hotline (212-HASHNYC), to take quarters or a mobile, and that the on in location and hotline will be written at the start.
Before you send the pack off explain anything you need to about the run. Aim to have the pack set out fifteen minutes after the appointed time.
After the pack has left wait another ten minutes or so for late any comers. Running with a bag is a bummer.
Make sure you have enough hands to handle the bags. You can’t manage 40 bags without leaving them unattended.
This is a good time to set the hot line. Many a hare has forgotten about it once they got to the on in, what with getting the bags in, ordering water, beer etc. Ask a committee member for instructions on setting the hotline.
Write down the on in location on the sidewalk and set an arrow pointing to the first mark down for any late comers. A hasher will always arrive after you leave – spending twenty minutes looking for the start of the trail is not a lot of fun.
At the on in.
The first thing to do is to get plenty of water ready for the pack. Have it in the cups with plenty of extra pitchers. Also have a few pitchers of beer ready.
It’s a good idea to give a tip to the bartender early on. This usually gets good service.
Agree with the bartender which beers we can order and tell him/her not to serve any others. Also let the hashers know which beers they can order. Before the beer starts flowing, set up a tab with limit. This means telling the bartender that when the bill reaches a certain point not to pour any more beer unless you up the limit. Keep it low at first. You can always pay the first tab and keep going or up the limit as you get a better handle on how much beer you need.
This should $20. It has to cover beer, food, tips and some money for the hash kitty. For NYC runs we usually need $1/head for the kitty but it’s less for other hashes. Some hares mark people’s hands with a marker or a stamp in order to keep track of who has and hasn’t paid. This is highly recommended for the larger crowds. But if you are expecting 10 to 20 people, it is probably not necessary. Most hashers are not dishonest but you have to go round several times before everybody eventually pays up. This is a pain but necessary. Make sure you collect from everyone. If you have any difficult people who don’t want to pay the full amount for whatever reason ask Hash Cash (the person) or one of the Joint Masters talk to them. No need for you to get into an argument.
Apart from the initial tip, it’s worth tipping the bartender well. We want to be welcomed back next time.
If you have any cash left over at the end of the evening give it to Hash Cash (the person) or, if he/she is not there to a Joint Master.
If you run out of hash cash you have two options. Tell everyone they’re on their own or get supplemental hash cash.
There’s a good reason we usually have pizza. It’s the easiest to plan for and organize, it’s the cheapest and there’s enough for everyone. Work on the basis of five to a pizza i.e. 1.5 slices each. This should be around $5 a head, including a tip to the delivery person. If you have a good size pack you should also ask the pizza place for a discount. It doesn’t always work but it’s worth trying. Unless you have plenty of cash on you make sure you have collected sufficient hash cash before the food arrives.
If you want to go for something else be it on your own head. Chinese or Indian makes a nice change but how much and what do you need for fifty people?
If the bar is supplying the food don’t order too much in advance. If the bar supplies and charges for food for thirty and only twenty turn up it’s going to be an expensive hash cash.
If you are using a bar that supplies the food make sure it is not too expensive. You shouldn’t spend more than $5.00 a head on food unless you are getting the (micro) beer at a very good price.
To do List for the Day of the run.
- Confirm deal with on in and food.
- Set the trail.
- Show up at start.
- Give starting instructions.
- Hand out chalk.
- Write the on in at the start
- Set the hot line
- Get bags to on in.
- Set an upper limit with the bartender.
- Have water and beer ready 45 minutes after start.
- Time food for about an hour after people start arriving.
- Collect hash cash.
- Pay the bill and tip the staff.
- Contribute to the hash cash kitty
- Have a good time.
- Go home.
There are two types of theme run. The first requires nothing of the pack, apart from turning up e.g. a national day where all checks are related to that country and the food is from that country. Check with the hare raiser that it is OK to do this.
The other type requires something of the pack, usually dressing up. We have a limited number of these each year and they need to be sanctioned by the committee.
Either way don’t just announce that you are doing a theme run.