CONNECTICUT, US, 2007
In 2004 the hunting of hares with more than two hounds was outlawed in Britain. For certain runners, though, hare and hounds means something quite different. It’s a fun way of enlivening a group run and sees a couple of lead runners (the hares) mark out a trail for their colleagues (the hounds) to follow. There’s absolutely no killing, or politics, involved.
One group that was particularly fond of hare and hound races was the Connecticut chapter of the Hash House Harriers (there are around 2,000 chapters of these informal, social running clubs across the globe). The members just couldn’t get enough of the format, but in 2007 it landed them in a whole heap of unanticipated bother with the local authorities.
Our hares for the day were Dr Daniel Salchow and his sister, Dorothee, who set off late in the afternoon to mark a four-mile trail for the rest of the club. Around 40 minutes later the job was done and Daniel and Dorothee retired to the doctor’s house to wait for the hounds to join them for a well-deserved postrun tipple (a common element in Hash House events).
It was then his wife phoned to tell him there was a bit of a problem. A massive problem, actually, and he’d better get his arse down to the car park of the local Ikea – through which the pair had routed the hounds – pronto. He was confronted by the disconcerting scene of scores of policemen and chaps in chemical suits cordoning off the area and everyone looking jolly worried.
Daniel and Dorothee had used flour to mark out their course, but we live in an era of heightened anxieties and when someone saw the pair liberally sprinkling white powder all over the car park, they jumped to the conclusion it was anthrax. Cue a major bioterrorism alert and the deployment of lots of people with specialist equipment. The scare forced the Ikea in question to close for the day and scores of customers returned home without their Billy bookcases.
When Daniel turned up he forlornly tried to explain the situation to Connecticut’s finest. He offered to taste the powder to prove it was innocuous, he even offered to sweep the mess up, but they ignored his pleas and promptly slapped the cuffs on.
It soon emerged that the powder was indeed merely flour but the police department was still far from happy. Daniel was charged with a first-degree breach of the peace, a felony, while the police, the mayor and Ikea all considered suing the doctor for damages.
Thankfully, common sense prevailed and it was agreed that Daniel and the Hash House Harriers would work with the city and Ikea on a fundraiser to benefit local charities, as a way of making amends for the almighty kerfuffle he had caused. ‘It was absolutely not in any way what we intended,’ he said, breathing a sigh of relief, ‘and not what we anticipated.’
Adapted from Running’s Strangest Tales by Iain Spragg, published by Portico, £7.99, waterstones.com