Vomit, Chucky Cheeks explains, is "on on." Ditto for waist-deep water, and mud.
Deadly chemicals, though, are definitely off.
"In Boulder, they called in these environmental cleanup disaster people," Cheeks laments, remembering a hashing event that took place not long ago. "They wanted to charge us, like, $2,000. I had to lick my hand to show them it wasn't anthrax."
What it was, was white flour. The "hare" had thrown it there, and the "hounds," including Cheeks, had sought it out, Hansel-and-Gretel style. It can be a drag when Cheeks known to the rest of us as Mick Barton and his fellow hashers literally run into law-enforcement types, or people who just don't understand what the hell is going on.
Hashing takes a minute or two to explain. Until we get to it later, suffice to say it's a pastime that combines a lot of beer and some running. That combination helped make it a one-of-a-kind thing in Colorado Springs a few years ago but that's true no more. Through the Jack Quinn's Running Club and the Colorado Springs Bike Pub Crawl, hundreds more people in town are linking noncompetitive exercise and drinking, bridging seemingly opposite ends of the recreational spectrum.
"People use [exercise] as a justification to drink," says Ryan Shininger, founder of Jack Quinn's Running Club. "Otherwise, they feel guilty, just going out drinking."
Quinn's Running Club was born, fittingly, over a boilermaker (typically a shot dropped into a beer). At the Tejon Street pub one night, word made it to co-owners Bill and Donna Sasz that it was Shininger's 25th birthday. They bought the recent Florida transplant an Irish Car Bomb. As he talked with them, Shininger mentioned his surprise that no bars here sponsored a running club, like the one he had belonged to when he lived in Pensacola.
The Saszes said they'd support one, if Shininger would take the lead in putting it together. So he found some free-advertising outlets, and visited pre-existing running clubs and the Colorado Springs Young Professionals Group. Meanwhile, Quinn's general manager, Ivette Gallegos, took care of some details: the time, the place, the post-run refreshments.
When the club held its first run last June, Shininger and Gallegos hoped for 20 runners; about 70 showed up. Each week, its numbers increased. By summer's end, more than 300 people were coming to the pub on Tuesdays after work, going out for a 5K, then coming back for free pasta, bread and salad, as well as discounted beer. (Guinness first offered a deal; now Bristol sells $2 pints.)
Running in the club is free, and there's no commitment required. Gallegos' records indicate nearly 1,300 people have come out at least once. Participate five times, and you qualify for a shirt.
"All running clubs are open to everyone, but they generally appeal to the hard-core running crowd," Shininger explains. "Whereas with this, anyone can come out and run 5K, or walk even shorter than that."
That culture of inclusivity was important to 32-year-old Karen Evers, a Fort Carson wife and mother of two. While her husband was in Iraq last year, she looked into the club as a recreational outlet for herself.
"When I walked in here, I knew nobody," she says, looking around Quinn's second floor after a recent run. "Now I'm on the committee."
That's a fairly serious responsibility. About a dozen volunteers coordinate ordering the club shirts (compliments of sponsor Boulder Running Company), keeping attendance, updating the Web site and organizing everyone before they go out at night. They also helped turn one January run into a fundraiser for the Empty Stocking Fund.
Shininger took a job in Denver a couple months ago, then subsequently moved to Boulder. But he returns at least a couple times a month to join the sea of bobbing headlamps downtown. When asked what he's most proud of, he cites the idea that he's helped turn "a pub back into a pub."
"In Ireland, it's more of a family thing people bring kids to the pub," he says. "It's not about going out and getting drunk it's about socializing and meeting new people."
This is evolution?
Local Hash House Harriers and Harriettes at least 20 of whom regularly run as part of the Quinn's club might agree. But where drinking is almost an incidental reward on those Tuesday nights, it's part and parcel of the hash. Consider the philosophy of the original 1938 Hash House Harriers, as cited on the group's global homepage (gthhh.com):
To promote physical fitness among our members;
To get rid of weekend hangovers;
To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer;
To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel.
Cheeks, for one, is well aware of Harrier history. When asked about the tradition, he goes straight back to 1930s Malaysia. A few running British soldiers the hares would throw wads of paper through rubber plantations to mark their paths. After fellow soldiers the hounds found them, they'd all stay together for a couple pints.
The tradition went from British soldiers to American soldiers in World War II, and from American soldiers to college campuses in the years that followed. Over the years, the wads of paper evolved into handfuls of flour or chalk, and there was no need for a rubber plantation when you just as easily could run through open fields or city streets. Or flowing creeks. Or enormous mud puddles.
The first Springs hash was founded in 1988. Today, the city has a half-dozen chapters, including The Colorado Kimchis and DIM (Dam It's Monday). The Pikes Peak Hash House Harriers and Harriettes make up the largest regularly attended hash; Cheeks says 20 to 30 take part in their winter hashes, and twice that come out in the summer.
Runs often go for three to five miles, but the length can vary wildly based on special occasion or whim of the hares. Sometimes there are beer stations along the route. At other times, no such treats flow until the end of the event.
A hash is open to anyone, but it's not for everyone. Lewd nicknames are bestowed. (Cheeks maintains his is a long story.) Political correctness is summarily dismissed. Then there are those events like the six-pack six-mile, usually saved for hot days, in which hashers run a mile, then chug a beer. (This is where it matters that vomit's considered "on on," or totally fine. "If you're a porter or stout man," Cheeks says, "you're gonna hurl.")
"There have been divorces over the hash," Cheeks notes. "Someone will be married, and then go to the hash, and the spouse will come out and not like it so much. It causes huge problems."
Cheeks, on the other hand, met his wife on a hash. And in the 25 years since he did his first hash at Penn State, the tradition has also afforded him some amazing experiences including a Saudi Arabian hash, which he hooked into during a Dubai business trip.
On the global scale, the Internet has fueled an explosion in popularity. There are more than 1,700 clubs worldwide, virtually all of which welcome newbies and hashers from other clubs. According to gthhh.com, the 453 clubs in the United States more than double the number of any other country.
Cheeks, headed to Puerto Vallerta, Mexico, with other local hashers in August for the biennial InterAmerican Hash, welcomes the global growth. Except in a few instances.
"In the Middle East, there are land mines," he says, "and stuff like that makes for bad hashing."
While perhaps not as extreme as running in Afghanistan, biking at night does carry an inherent danger. The Colorado Springs Bike Pub Crawl is well aware of that. When crawlers go out after dark on a Thursday night, they're all lights, hand signals and pacing.
The togas and ninja costumes are a separate matter altogether.
"After the first five or six months, we began focusing on themed rides," says Jon Hurly, who participated in the first crawl, conceived four years ago as a group farewell to a friend. "It's tough trying to get everyone excited every week."
So on the first Thursday of each month, anywhere from 20 to 80 riders gather and dress up or dress down as they coast along North Tejon Street through downtown to a handful of bars and pubs. On Thursdays in between, most of them return for a more low-key ride, following a similar route. Hurly notes that it's not a "mob rule" kind of event; crawlers seek to peacefully co-exist with drivers and walkers.
Relying largely on word of mouth and occasional e-mail updates, and without any club hierarchy, the Bike Pub Crawl revels in a loose nature that's right in line with those espoused by Quinn's and the Hashers. While longtime crawlers strongly urge that riders obey the law and also promote the use of helmets and bike locks, Hurly says all riders are ultimately responsible for their own actions, and are free to attend as they please.
In the past, crawlers prided themselves on taking on virtually any weather conditions. ("We crawl harder than the mailman," proclaims the crawl's Web site.) But they've pulled back a bit in this snow-laden winter. Last week's snow shut them down completely; two weeks ago, they gathered at what has become their new home base, Left Side Spin, for a movie.
Left Side owner Tyrone Arcila specializes in cruiser-type bikes, which offer a comfortable ride that a number of crawlers love (although you'll see everything from rugged mountain bikes to kids' BMXs on a typical crawl). More importantly, though, Arcila embraces the idea of biking-as-social-connector.
"At 34, I'm looking for some sense of community in this town that speaks to me, unlike the community that has given this town the reputation it has," says Arcila, a crawling regular himself. "And through this crawl, I've met those people."
"You don't have to be avid cyclist," Hurly says. "If you have a bike and [a crawl] seems like a good idea, that's what we're looking for."
With all the disclaimers and talk of social lubrication, you might wonder if you'll get any health benefits from one of these groups. After all, any number of medical experts and Web sites will tell you that beer and exercise don't mix. Drinking flushes out the water that helps your muscles survive, and it also decreases your ability to synthesize protein.
No runner or biker is likely to fight doctors or biologists on these points. But they might cite studies that say having structure and an exercise partner or a few dozen partners is more likely to keep you coming back.
Or they might just take another sip and point you to someone like Quinn's general manager Gallegos.
She never had run for exercise before helping start her bar's running club last summer. About nine months later, she has completed two half-marathons and is training for the Colorado Marathon in May in Fort Collins.
Jack Quinn's Running Club
Leaving from and returning to Jack Quinn's Irish Alehouse & Pub, 21 S. Tejon St.
Tuesdays, 6 p.m.
For more, visit
Pikes Peak Hash House Harriers and Harriettes
Usually every other Saturday
For updated information on upcoming P2H4 hashes, call 866/786-4233. For info on other local hashing, visit angelfire.com/mi/birdman/hareline.html.
Colorado Springs Bike Pub Crawl
Leaving from Left Side Spin, 333 N. Tejon St.
Thursdays, between 8:30 and 9 p.m.
The crawl does not run every week in winter; visit cosbikepubcrawl.com to join its e-mail list for updates.