So you want to be a hare… the (fairly) complete guide to setting a trail in NYC
by Roy Gilbert
edited 6/17/2020 by What A C*nt!
Planning the On-In
First, decide on the general location of the hash. If possible, avoid an area used the previous week (or the following week if that’s listed), since marks from the previous trail may still be there.
Where trail should be set depends on which kennel you are laying for:
- NYCH3, GGFM or NAWW – any borough, including New Jersey off the PATH train
- Knickerbocker H3 – Manhattan south of 72nd Street or North Brooklyn (off the L train)
- Brooklyn H3 – Brooklyn
- NASS (Summer Sundays) – Anywhere EXCEPT Manhattan
- Long Island Lunatics – Anywhere on Long Island within stumbling distance of a LIRR station
- Columbia University New Traditional H3 (CUntHHH) – Anywhere north of 96th Street, including Queens, the Bronx, NYC Islands and even New Jersey
- Queens (if it ever returns) – Queens
Next, decide on an on-in, which simply means the end location. 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 often attract up to 30 hashers. Winter runs and outer borough hashes tend to be smaller. In nice weather, outdoor on-ins are an excellent idea, but you can always choose a bar.
Option 1: Choosing a Bar
Beer will be your biggest expense, as hashers are a thirsty lot. Which beer is up to the bar, but bear in mind that some hashers do not appreciate Bud, Miller, etc. Choosing a place that has at least one “fancier” option, like a microbrew, Bass, or some kind of IPA is a nice touch. Most bars are willing to give us special prices if you explain you will bring a group in exchange. Most bars are also pretty empty on a Sunday afternoon; 20 hashers on a Wednesday is a nice bump for business so you are in a strong bargaining position. So bargain!
Negotiate for one cheap beer option like Bud Light, Corona, etc. and try to get something nicer like Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada etc. We drink more of the “good beer” so it’s important to get a good price for it. If pitchers are available, a $15 pitcher is a good price for the more expensive brew and $10-13 is a good price for the cheapie. If they don’t have pitchers, aim for $4.00 a pint and $3.00 for bottles/cans. If your place can’t do it, see if they can cut you a break in some other way (free or cheap food!).
If they can’t cut you a deal, try somewhere else! Nobody wants hash cash to run out early.
Food: Unlike many other kennels, we usually provide some kind of food option for hashers. It doesn’t have to be a full meal, just a nice snack. Try to aim for spending 20% of hash cash on food (don’t forget tax and tips!). Pizza is great and often the cheapest (estimate 1.5 slices per person). Dumplings, noodles, samosas, tamales, tater tots, french fries and other drunk-friendly foods are some other popular options. Making food and bringing it is always much cheaper, but it’s a pain.
Option 2: Choosing A Place that is Not A Bar
Beer: Having a variety of beer available at your on-in will please the hashing gods! Especially since beer is cheaper to purchase in a store than in a bar, hashers will hope for a higher quality of beer for their hash cash. Alternatives to beer are nice for gluturds and winers. Don’t forget to have water too!
Food: If you’re throwing a party, food is the best way to get people to stay! Ordering pizza is fine, but having a picnic is swell! You can make something yummy, order pizza or other food, or ask hashers to bring something to share and discount hash cash.
Choosing a Start Location
Choose somewhere you can easily get a taxi or car service, which you will need to get the pack’s bags from the start to the on in. Apps are great, but phones can die and having options is always a good idea, so it might be good to keep the number for a car service with your chalk. Of course, if you have your own car for bag transport you can start wherever you like.
A to A trails – Are great for big events where we don’t want to transport bags, but surprising us is much nicer! If you don’t want to travel far, a good alternative is “A to A-prime,” meaning your finish location is close to, but not the same as, your start.
How Long Is It?
Distance of trail: For evening starts, aim for 3-5 miles total (including checking). On weekends or other afternoon starts you can go longer if you want, but remember that hashers’ primary motivation is beer, so if they’re going more than 5 miles, reward them every few miles with a beer check! More info below under “Trail Features.”
Time to lay: 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. It is a good idea to recce (that’s British for scouting) the run in advance so you know where you are going when you set the trail.
How many hares?
Don’t try and hare on your own unless you are an experienced hare, or are certain it will be a small pack. Remember, 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, collect hash cash from everybody, order food, keep a close eye on the tab and pay the bartender. It is almost always better to do this with a buddy! A buddy can also enable you to have a beer or shot check on trail.
If you can’t get a co-hare, ask the committee to help! Hashers can r*n the trail and still help you by picking up pizza or helping you get beer from the bar.
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.
Chalk or flour?
In NYC, trails are most often set in chalk. The advantage of chalk arrows is that you can see the exact direction. The disadvantage is that it disappears instantly when it rains.
Chalk trails: Never use classroom chalk, it’s hard to see and disappears very quickly, and everyone will make fun of your tiny chalk. Sidewalk chalk is better! Choose light colors that are visible at night (white is best, then yellow, then orange/green, etc). The other colors may be pretty but they are difficult to see, especially at night. The best chalk is sheet rock (also known as plaster board or drywall). It’s free. You can pick up big chunks of it at construction sites, and hardware stores almost always have scraps.
Rain: If the forecast says rain use flour, and use plenty of it. If the whole run is in flour you’ll need three or four five-pound bags (delis are great if you run out, but make sure to carry cash because of credit card minimums).
Snow: 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. You can also get carpenter’s chalk at hardware stores, which is powdered chalk that comes in red, yellow and (best) neon orange.
Indoors: Post-It notes are a very effective tool!
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.
Trail has been lain in everything from Lucky Charms to cheez balls to ketchup and beyond. Get creative!
A Note About Theme Runs
If you want to do a themed trail, notify the hare raiser or other mismanagement, who will help you advertise and advise of best dates or any potential conflicts.
There are two types of themed hash. The first requires nothing of the pack, apart from turning up, e.g. a national day (Scotland Day!) where all checks are related to that country (they look like bagpipes) and the food is from that country (haggis!).
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.
Editor’s note: While some of us who wrote this may not always participate, most hashers love a good theme! If you have a great idea don’t shy away! Pitch it to mismanagement and we will work with you to get it done.
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 may have experienced on some runs, there should not be any doubt where the trail goes, except at checks. Put down plenty of marks. There is 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 hashers cannot see the next mark, they should be able to use the “when in doubt, run it out” principle to find it, i.e., they should be able to follow the direction of each mark to find the next one.
If it is raining, use flour and place your marks where they are least likely to wash away – on trees, in dry spots, on walls rather than the sidewalk – and use more than you think you will need.
In the great words of one Doggie Erectus, “Remember: when they’re running trail, hashers are stupid.” They do not know where you intend them to go, they have to figure it out!
If you’re into being abused by the pack or if you like drinking lots of down-downs, ignore this section. Bad checks are the #1 cause of sh*ttiness on trail.
The purpose 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), or three marks and you’re on, with some false trails to lead the pack slightly astray. 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*.
*Editor’s note: While many of us do not mark any false trails, it is a really good idea to mark false trails false if you expressly do NOT want the pack to go in that direction (such as a case where they may find a future part of the trail). A standard false mark in NYC is either three parallel lines (like a hamburger menu on a website) or a big F (as in my weekend plans).
A check is always easy if you know where the trail is going. It’s a lot harder for the pack, which doesn’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 go easy.
Checks in places like Times Square, Union Square, or [insert park here] are 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 “short” block from the check (.1 miles) and the third mark (if it’s three and you’re on) should not be more than three short blocks from the check.
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). For a basic trail, aim for four to five miles (including checks). As a general rule the FRBs should be in after about 45 minutes and the last in should be not much more than an hour.
If you really want to set a long trail, it’s a good idea to put your co-hare to work and include a chicken and eagle split (or don’t forget to allow extra time if you’re on your own). What’s a chicken/eagle split, you ask? Somewhere along the trail 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 with a C (for chicken, not the other thing) and the other one E (for eagle–what the heck were you thinking?). 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.
Editor’s note: It’s a good idea to have a beer check where the chickens/eagles cum together, uh… to keep them together.
You can take the trail wherever you like, over walls, through undergrowth, across streams, through Grand Central, across the Brooklyn Bridge. Avoid long straightaways – they are 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.
Editor’s note: I differ in opinion on this. Zig-zagging can be an effective tool for bringing the pack together if used cleverly in conjunction with other tricks, such as circle jerks or back-checks.
Beware of doubling 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, Shot Checks and Other On-Trail Treats
Having a beverage check along the way is always greatly appreciated by the pack! If it’s a hot, humid day, try to have water on hand too. Ice cream, Jell-O shots, popsicles and cookies also go over well. Especially when it’s hot, salty snacks can help hashers replenish their electrolytes.
If you are expecting more than 20 people, it is advisable to have a third hare or extra helpers to execute beer checks.
At the start
Get a head count! You will appreciate having done that later when you order food.
Make sure you have enough hands to handle the bags. You can’t manage 40 bags alone without leaving them unattended! If it is an unexpectedly large pack, ask for a volunteer to help you with bags instead of running trail. If there are no volunteers, someone from the mismanagement committee will help.
Pass out chalk to the pack. This enables the pack to put down extra marks to help those behind them, or if marks have disappeared.
Chalk Talk. Make sure that anyone new to hashing in New York is front and center, so they know how our trails are set. Don’t forget to tell them about the hotline (212-HASHNYC), 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, and quickly go over any marks you’ve laid apart from standard arrows and checks. Aim to send the pack away fifteen minutes after the appointed time (i.e. if it’s a 7:00 p.m. start, they should be away by 7:15).
Write the on in location on the sidewalk in chalk and set an arrow pointing to the first mark down for any late comers. Someone will always arrive after you leave.
After the pack has left, wait for latecomers for another ten minutes or so before getting into a cab. Running with a bag is a bummer. This is a good time to set the hotline. Ask mismanagement for instructions on setting the hotline.
At the On-In
The first thing to do is to check in with the bartender! Sometimes a manager will “forget” to tell them about us, so make sure they know who you are and who you made the deal with. Work out with them how they would like to keep track of the tab.
Get some water ready for the pack. Having your headcount will help you decide how much – not everyone will drink the water, but it’s a good idea to have enough for at least half the pack. If you’re getting pitchers, order a few to have ready.
Editor’s note: When we’re ordering pints at the bar there’s always a huge rush when the pack arrives. I like to order enough pints of the cheapest beer for about half the pack and have them ready and waiting. (Not too early though, or they’ll get warm!)
It’s never a bad 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 advise 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 a limit. This means telling the bartender that when the bill reaches a certain point, they should not pour any more beer unless you raise the limit by adding more cash. Keep it low at first–you can always pay the first tab and keep going or up the limit as you get a better idea of how much beer you need. $100 (with an extra $20 up front for the bartender) works great.
Standard hash cash in New York City is $20. It has to cover beer, food, tips and hopefully a little money left over for the hash kitty.
For NYCH3 we usually ask $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 may 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, DO NOT ARGUE with them! Ask Hash Cash (the person) or a Grand Master/Joint Master to talk to them.
Apart from the initial tip, it’s worth tipping the bartender and staff 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). If he/she is not there, talk to a GM/JM or other committee member.
If you run out of hash cash you have two options. Tell everyone they’re on their own and close the tab or ask Hash Cash if we can supplement from the kitty.
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 a delivery person (you can usually find a hasher to pick up for you to avoid delivery fees and tips). If you have a good sized pack, try to ask for a discount or a family deal. 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? Sometimes you can find great family-style deals, sometimes it’s just not worth it and it’s better to order pizza.
If the bar is supplying the food don’t order too much in advance, especially since bar food is more expensive and can eat up your beer money (it’s always better to have more beer than food). If the bar supplies and charges for food for thirty and only twenty turn up it’s going to be an expensive hash cash. Plus, some may not eat the food due to dietary restrictions or personal preferences.
If you are using a bar that supplies the food make sure it is not too expensive. Aim to spend no more than $5.00 a head on food unless you are getting the beer at an exceptionally good price.
To-Do List for the Day of the run
- Confirm your deal with the On-In and the food supplier.
- Set the trail.
- Show up at the start.
- Give Chalk Talk.
- Hand out pack chalk.
- Write the on-in at the start
- Set the hotline
- Transport the bags
- Set a tab limit with the bartender.
- Have water and beer ready 45 minutes after start.
- Order food to be ready about an hour after people start arriving.
- Collect hash cash.
- Have a great time
- Pay the bill and tip the staff.
- Contribute to the hash cash kitty
- Go home.