I am trying new things.
I mean, my whole life is about trying new things: learning to fix things around my house and grill for my kids and maintain a handle on my finances. But what I mean is that I’m trying new things that I don’t have to do. I’m experimenting with new recipes. I’m going out with men who aren’t typically my cup of tea. And of course, I’m running.
Last week, I tried something really new: a hash run.
For those of you who’ve never heard of a hash run, do not worry that you are out of the loop – until a friend suggested I do one, I had no idea what “hashing” was. There’s a ton of stuff you can read online about hashing, but it comes down to this: a group of people gather at a pre-arranged location and then do an obstacle course/scavenger hunt together. Along the way, drinking and other silliness is encouraged, though not required (I particularly appreciated that there was no pressure on anyone to drink.) Think this sounds like a crazy DC thing? Well, it’s done all over the world, and it started in 1938.
Anyway, I got it in my head that I was going to do this run and my friend Purva told me she’d join me. (“I did some reading online,” she told me as we drove down there, “and it sounded like things could get pretty wild. I couldn’t let you go alone!” I loved that. She didn’t try and dissuade me from going – instead she decided to go with me. If that’s not a statement of true friendship, I don’t know what is.)
Anyway, we found ourselves in the suburbs on a beautiful Sunday morning last week, wandering around a parking lot looking for people. “You here for the hash?” a man called out to us. We nodded and he came over to us. “Wanna beer?” he asked, as he pulled a Bud Light out of his pocket.
We both demurred, but Purva and I looked at each other with skeptical glances as we walked to the gathering spot with our new friend. As we approached the group, he introduced us to everyone. They shouted words of encouragement, calling us “virgins” and introducing themselves with their pseudonyms (I did not learn anyone’s actual name during this three-hour experience. I also learned very little about people, as there are unwritten rules that people shouldn’t share about their personal lives.) Everyone was drinking and laughing and talking, happily telling me all the things I’d see in the next few hours.
After a number of raunchy chants and a shot (yes, I partook. I mean, if I was going to do this, I needed to do it right) we were off, chasing a team that had left 15 minutes earlier to set the trail. A veteran hasher ran alongside Purva and me, telling us more about what to expect and generally making sure we didn’t get lost. It’s actually a possibility – at each turn in the road, we had to send scouts out to decide whether to go right or left or straight or up or down or whatever. We scaled stairs and pushed aside overgrown brush and even waded through knee-deep water. We also probably went through half a dozen empty parking garages.
But you know what I realized after a mile or so? It was fun.
Early in the run, I started talking to a woman there who told me she did her first hash when she was going through a divorce. She told me she wanted to find something where she could meet new people and try something totally new.
“That’s me too,” I said, and then added, “I mean, sort-of. Anyway, the wanting to try something new part.”
She smiled, and didn’t ask me anything else. To ask about the roots of my desire to meet new people would be against the norms, I guess. So we just kept running, laughing at the group in front of us who were chanting something amusing.
At one point, we all stopped for a beer and I listened to the stories people told about other hash runs. It was then that it hit me: none of those people knew anything about my life. They didn’t know I am a single mom. They didn’t know I am feeling a bit down about dating. They didn’t know I am trying to figure out new avenues in my professional life.
They didn’t know that I am a widow.
It kind-of blew my mind. Everyone in my community knows I’m a widow. And everyone outside of my community knows I’m a widow because I tell them.
But there, I was “just Marjorie.” Actually, that’s what new hashers are called. Once you’ve been with the group for a while, you get a (usually raunchy) nickname. But for newbies, you’re “just (your name)”. So while I was there, every time someone asked me my name, I had to say, “I’m just Marjorie.”
As we finished, the group gathered to drink more beer, eat Cheetos and laugh about the run. My feet were soaking wet, and I was ready to puke after drinking and running five miles (thank God Purva was my designated driver!) We formed a circle, and someone put another beer in my hand as Purva and I were called to the center. The day’s leader made the group do a few crazy chants before interviewing us about our experience.
“What’s your name?” he asked me, gesturing my way.
“I’m just Marjorie,” I said.
“And who got you to come here today?” he asked.
“Me!” I said. “Just me.” The group loved it my excitement and cheered me on as I drank my celebratory beer.
When we finally left, everyone said goodbye. “It was nice to meet you, just Marjorie,” said one person after another.
Yes it was, I thought. It was nice to do something that was so out-of-my-comfort zone, so totally fun and not-serious. I liked the excitement of the run and the camaraderie and the fact that what people really remembered about me was that I could run with the front of the pack.
They didn’t know my life at all out there. They just knew I was a runner, trying something new.
Because out there, I was just Marjorie.