It turns out that every hasher has their own version of how to set a trail. I’ve tried to order these various guides from simplest to advanced. Good luck.
Note: There is some confusion over which symbols should be used for turnbacks and checkbacks. Please inform the pack of what your symbols mean at the start of the hash
The trail should be between 3 and 5 miles long. Set it using blobs of flour. Three blobs means the pack is “on” and should continuing following the trail while shouting “on on” to indicate they are going the “right” way.
Add regular checks, indicated by a small circle of flour. The first hasher to get to a check should hold it and wait for the rest of the pack. Other hashers should fan out and find the trail (find three blobs in a row) and then call “on on”. The hashers holding the blob should kick it through in the direction of the call so slow runners know where to go.
You can mislead the pack by placing either check backs or turn backs. Check backs are indicated by a cross, they mean the trail goes off somewhere between the check back and the last check.
Turn backs are usually indicated by an arrow pointing back, they mean hashers must run all the way back to the check and try again. There are variations on these marks (a “T” used to indicate a turn back). So as hares you should do a briefing at the start of each has to explain your marks.
An “R” in a circle indicates a regroup. All hashers must wait until the entire pack has arrived before looking for trails. This is normally placed towards the end of a long trail to give the slow pokes a chance to catchup before the beer stop.
A “BN” in a circle indicates “Beer Near” and is placed just before a beer stop. Normally a beer stop occurs at the end of a trail and hashers run back to the pub afterwards. But there are no rules. However, if you want to have multiple beer stops it may be best to tell the pack first so they don’t just all run back to the pub midway through a trail.
The simplest advice for laying a trail is to remember why *most* people hash. Monday Nights are a sociable evening, focused around meeting up with friends, chatting and tomfoolery. Most importantly Monday nights are focused around being back in the pub at a sensible time (typically 8:00 – 8:15) and then enjoying some beer.
If people end up running long sections on their own, if they end up navigating the outer perimeter of Cambridge, or if they have not returned them to the pub by 8:30 you have failed to lay a good trail.
Nobody will reminisce in wonder at the amazing alley on the outskirts of Fen Ditton they were running through at 8:45, or thank you for the borderline hypothermia they’re suffering because you led them on a poorly marked trail and then they got lost somewhere near Cherry Hinton in the driving rain. Laying a good trail is easy, you just need to stick to the basics.
‘There are no rules’ I hear you say. We all say there are no rules, but that’s like saying ‘another Jug sounds like a good idea’ at 10:55, it’s simply misguided.
1. The trail begins at 19:00, you should have your trail laid long before then, to be on the safe side.
2. A trail can NEVER cross itself.
3. Hashing is non-competitive.
4. During the winter months you should aim to have the pack back to the pub by 20:00.
5. A beer stop is not essential – point 4 takes precedence over stopping to have a drink in the cold.
Blobs – Denotes the trail. Most often made in flour, although chalk works (as does colouring the flour in the event of snow). Typically these are laid on the ‘far side’ of a lamp post etc., so a runner would have to run past the object to spot the flour. HOWEVER, nobody likes a meagre dusting of flour, and when you are on the trail, it should be OBVIOUS you have run past the blob.
Circle – A Check. The trail can lead anywhere from the CHECK, EXCEPT back on its self (see rule 2). A legitimate trail has three BLOBS (three BLOBS and you’re on). False trails will have one or two blobs.
NOTE: Hashers won’t necessarily run where you expect them to, and will run much further through the second blob than you intended, so make sure they can’t accidentally run onto another BLOB. It’s a good idea to put a number of blobs close together following the 3rd blob on the true trail to make sure the pack doesn’t miss the trail because they missed one of the earlier blobs.
Circle with a Cross through it – Turn Back. This means go back to the previous Circle (Check) and try another path
Arrow (facing back the way you have come) – Check back. Somewhere between here and the previous Check there is a turn off and the path continues.
Circle with a R in it – Re-group. The pack has to wait here until the Hare ‘releases’ them by calling
‘Check it Out’. Always have ONLY ONE clearly marked trail leading from a re-group. The pack will have cooled down so don’t make them wait around any longer.
BN – Beer Near. This should be laid within a couple of hundred metres at most of the Beer Stop.
BS – Beer Stop.
ON INN – Return to the Pub any route you prefer
Laying a trail requires a bit more preparation and effort than anticipated. Give it some thought for a few days at least, and stick to the following for a successful Virgin Trail:
1. Keep it SHORT. Under no circumstances will you be criticised for a trail that is TOO short. The number one mistake for a Virgin Hare is a trail that is TOO Long. A lot of factors can influence how far a trail should be, but a good rule of thumb is around 5KM to the beer stop.
2. MAP THE ROUTE. Plenty of free online apps available for you to map out your trail. Try mapmyrun.com for starters. This will help you visualise any potential mistakes i.e. crossing your own trail.
3. Keep the false trails away from the live trail. Front running bastards (FRBs) will run MUCH further through the false trail than expected and if you have the false trail anywhere near any part of the real trail, mayhem ensues.
4. Lots of CHECKS. We’ve all run a trail, where a continuous stretch of trail runs uninterrupted for a kilometre or two. This results in many hashers running on their own. Regular checks and false trails keep the FRBs from disappearing into the distance and allows the slower members of the pack to keep up.
5. Make the Blobs of flour visible to anybody who has run past them. If it’s likely to rain, make them even bigger. If it’s snowing, consider putting food dye in the flour.
6. Keep it simple. A really good trail, will work without check backs, turn backs or regroups. The more symbols you use, the more likely the trail is going to go wrong.
7. Get the pack back to the pub by 8:00 in the winter, 8:15 in the summer.
8. Don’t endanger the hashers, ALWAYS cross busy roads at the lights and stay away from serious hazards!
9. Keep it SHORT. I know I’ve said this already, but it’s such an important instruction I thought I’d give it a second billing.
We all LOVE a Beer Stop. However, you are under no obligation to provide one. If you get us all back to the pub around 8:00 and none of us lost, we’ll be happy. If you are feeling generous and wish to provide a beer stop, consider:
1. The distance from the PUB. If it’s a short distance back, then a 5km trail is fine, if it’s 3km from the Pub (which it shouldn’t be anyway), then a shorter trail is required (see previous comments about getting back to the pub by 8:00/8:15)
2. Consider the weather! If it’s 28c in the middle of summer, then I’d like to sit by the Mill Pond and enjoy a refreshing Pimms. If it’s -2c and lashing rain, then consider a multi-storey car park and a dash of port or rum. Also consider I will not be loitering at a beer stop in the winter unless you keep me warm and dry.
3. People prefer flatter beer over fizzy lager (especially if there is a >1km run back), and some people will appreciate a glass of water on warm days.
The Hare should run (or cycle) the trail with the pack. Typically they loiter at the back, to ensure the back markers don’t get lost. Be wary of your body language on check points as this will give the game away. However, if the trail is taking longer than expected (have an idea of how far ó way is etc and expect the pack to get there by 7:25 ish), then suggest to a more enthusiastic hasher they may wish to ‘check up there’. Keep the pack moving and together.
Have fun! Remember to keep an eye out for Sinners and KEEP IT SHORT.
Set the trail how you want it to go – not as other people suggest. Remember the pack is trying to get into your mind to anticipate what you have done.
I tend to get the pack away from the start on a trail to the first check rather than a check at the start which leaves people flaffing around.
Some hares are sparing with the flour/sawdust/paper/chalk. Once ‘on’ I tend to be generous with blobs every 10m but discretely hidden i.e. behind posts, trees. Of course, there are times when you want the pack to find a trail sooner than later, especially if it is a turnback.
This goes back to my first point; if the pack realises that each time an obvious trail is found it is a turnback or backcheck then they will be more suspicious when the ‘on’ is called. The ‘on’ (third blob) closer to a check makes for a faster trail. Also, for a fast trail you have less turnbacks and checkbacks and only one trail at a time leading off a check. On the other hand, it tends to be time consuming to lay the trail with false trails and turnbacks. It is difficult to gauge ‘time to lay’ versus ‘time to run’ as a lot depends on the size and fitness of the pack and cunning of the hare. I normally allow 2 hours for a 50-minute run. If two people lay the trail so that one is doing the turnbacks and falsies while the other is laying the real trail it brings the time down to 1½ : 1. I normally draw my trail on a map having reconnoitered the area first. It’s amazing the little alleys or pathways that one finds.
Beware of laying a ‘clever’ trail. The combined IQ of the pack is ESN. Avoid laying sections too close to other sections. A hasher will sense if a turnback is a means of stopping the pack from shortcutting to another section. SCBs and FRBs will run through a turnback hoping to intercept the trail. You can always leave parts of the trail to be laid after the pack has passed by. Over the years I have laid about six figure of eight courses. These are very difficult to achieve successfully; half of mine have been total disasters.
I normally sweep at the back to help stragglers shortcut to rejoin the pack and if there is a long delay at a check to discretely suggest directions for a hasher to search. The pack is like sheep it just follows the front runners whether on chalk or not! If possible, it helps to have a ‘secret’ hare who runs in the pack; somebody who is aware of the trail but the pack doesn’t know.
I vary the style throughout; sometimes I have quick-find checks with easily spotted blobs within 75m of the check, other times the third blob is not found until 200m. The strategy for the first blob is flexible. If the first blob in one direction is at, say 20m, yet a blob in another direction is found at 75m the pack sense that the 20m blob is a false trail. So vary the options.
I’ve attached the two pages of my ‘Hashway Code’. These markings are not universal, as there are often local variations.
a) Assume stupidity.
b) Lay lots of checks. Many more than you think would be normal. Checks act to keep a pack together. Without them, you get 3 fast bastards drinking all the beer and the rest of the pack spread out over the last mile, all lost (because there’s nobody to follow) and cursing your name to eternity
c) Don’t be afraid of making up new symbols – as long as you explain them before the off. If the pack isn’t listening, then that’s their own bloody fault) there are no rules. No matter what the old gits tell you.*
*(Jeremy is himself an old git)
The Other hash uses these rules: http://ch3.co.uk/Hound/HowTo
But that’s the other hash so use caution (the symbols are different and they go from different pubs each week, it’s weird)!