Pow­der fail­ure

CONNECTICUT, US, 2007

Runner's World (UK) - - Coffee Perks -

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

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