"There's not many people here tonight?"
Cold wintry night - check. One of Ken's feared hashes - check. A howling wind and lashing rain - check. All that was needed was a dramatic music score, maybe evil cackling laughter in the background, and voila – the scene would be perfectly set for the opening of a horror movie.
The macabre tone was set from the outset – "It's 5 and a bit long" [Ken addresses the potential victims….I mean hashers in the car park] "How many Kenometers is that?" [The Hash choruses as one]"Ah, I don't think I specified the units, did I?" "So what are we talking about here.....miles, days, fatalities?" I'm sure I saw a glint in Ken's eye at that point, or maybe it was 'a shining'….but I shrugged it off as a trick of the torchlight, so we duly plodded off down the lane and down the escarpment, following the Rugged Radnage 10k route.
No sooner had we reached the bottom, than the Long/Short split was called. Ken refused to call the Longs by their collective name (psycho-killer sign #1 – de-humanising your victims), and so 'those who are not going Short' were ordered to climb back up the slope they had just come down. The Shorts meanwhile (who were far more numerous than the Longs for once – a sense of foreboding perchance?) continued on down the valley, huddled together tightly for protection against the elements….or whatever might have been lurking out there that dreadful night.
At the top, Kev suddenly shouted out, "I know where are now!" (psycho-killer sign #2 – sensory deprivation), as memories of his January hash came flooding back. We had stumbled back into 'The Stokenchurch Triangle', a lesser known (and bloody damn sight colder) phenomenon than its Bermudan counterpart, where navigational systems go haywire and people mysteriously disappear (sign #3 – missing bodies). A collective malaise seemed to overcome the Longs at this point, almost as if some knew their end might be nigh and they sought to unburden their souls – Dick's confession as to the time he very publically 'beat the bishop' was probably the most troubling (sign #4 – incitement to violence). Jess then proceeded to run into a tree branch, reinvoking memories of that horror scene from 'The Evil Dead' (sign #5 – fatalistic acceptance), and Ken started humming the theme tune to 'Deliverance' – "I play the banjo too you know"….. it is fair to say that it was not looking good for us at this point!
The on-backs were numerous, almost as if Ken was expecting a much larger group of victims…I mean hashers….but in the event, it was probably a good thing for us to keep close together – it's always the stragglers that get picked off in these scenarios. Even Roger was quiet. Luckily Ant was back running and on form, the prospect of impending fatherhood seemed to have energized him, although it also seemed to rub off on his rather large shadow - an Ant+, well more of a Beetle really, otherwise known as Andy. There again, maybe Andy was just running in fear of his life ….terror can be such a contagious emotion.
After running past a series of '6' on-backs (no irony there then!), we reached the top of Spriggs Lane, where we were promised a 'hellish' descent, passing the abandoned pub at the bottom. "I wouldn't go in there if I were you", muttered Ken – I'm not sure if that was a particularly downbeat Tripadvisor review or a veiled threat, so we kept our eyes fixed on the road ahead, and finally turned uphill on our way back to the pub.
It is fair to say that there was a collective sigh of relief upon reaching the car park alive, with hashers rejoicing, 'I'm still alive after one of Ken's runs!". The Shorts were already back safe & sound, warming themselves inside. As we joined them at the bar, relieved laughter could be heard echoing around the pub, until there was a shrieking sound, and the door flew open, silhouetting a macabre figure against the ink-black sky, carrying a large blunt object in his hand.
Luckily, it wasn't a murderer with an axe, but only Ken lugging his over-sized torch inside. However Ken then managed to redeem himself with copious quantities of chips, so many in fact that some hashers pronounced themselves unsure as whether they could finish them all (spoiler alert – Mike, aka Mr. Potato Head, was absent). We even joked that the potatoes were so numerous must have been transported in a body bag……then a nervous silence fell – what on earth would Ken be doing all the way out here with a body bag? Outside, the wind howled, the lights flickered, and everybody huddled that bit closer together……