My retired racing greyhound trotted in from his morning visit to the backyard after his Sunday morning breakfast. On most days, Rubin likes to come back into the kitchen, check to see whether he can mooch a little bit of peanut butter, then heads back to his sleeping blanket at the foot of our bed. This last Sunday, he stopped by a small pile of clothing neatly laid on the back porch table & proceeded to engage in a lengthy sniff-through. While the clothing & shoes of a typical running enthusiast like me would normally interest my dog, he seemed a touch more interested in the clothes I wore the previous evening.
The reason for the increased interest? Perhaps it had to do with the information he gained. A suburban dog can learn a lot of new stuff when perusing clothes worn while running over (through?) trails and a few drainage ditches choked with low-hanging branches, fallen limbs, standing water, thorn bushes, and so forth. He learned standing water & plant material has a smell which is not like perspiration. Why did "dad's" clothing smell like swamp, & not sweat?
I have several friends who, while not hard-core road runners, enjoy the challenge of what is known as "hare & hounds" running. While the sources which explain the history of this activity, the traditions which surround the activity & the groups which engage in it...in varying frequencies...vary in quality and quantity, these facts which appear to be to be most true:
- A group of people meet in a location.
- One or two are sent off to lay a trail, with a brief lead time before the rest are sent in pursuit.
- A social gathering begins at trail's end, where songs are sung, beverages are consumed, & general runner-like fellowship occurs.
I've run with a couple of groups which play the "hare & hounds" game over the past year or so, & the one unique quality you can say is common among all of the groups - like Wesley's take on the non-essentials of any religion - is diversity. Two groups are active where we live, with several others in a one-hour radius of our home:
- One considers themselves a "family-friendly" group.
- The other has a t-shirt which says, "if the devil doesn't make you do it, we probably will."
I wouldn't say they're "night & day" in their approach totally across the board, but...I've been to the exact same number of runs with each group, & they do vary in their degree of challenge. I'm one of those who can hold my own on a semi-urban course of roads, parks and sidewalks, but reality sets in when we get out in the country. You can guess where I have acquired more scars on my legs. The nickname I earned is fitting for my "life" as a coach, as well as my attitude about running through thorn bushes, branches, brush, standing water, and more-challenging terrain. It's humbling when a "semi-accomplished road racer" is falling on his back side in three feet of standing water. I've destroyed a pair of perfectly decent training shoes in the past month, for which I'm less than enthused.
But it's a chance for my wife & I to spend "quality time" together; she's only a minute away, in front or behind, depending on the course. The mental aspect of problem solving, cooperation & communication sharpens us both, too. We like both of the groups in varying degrees, for a really good reason: doing the "paper chase" every couple of weekends breaks the "race Saturday, long day Sunday, easy run Monday and Wednesday, speed work Tuesday & Thursday, rest Friday..." mentality. We meet & run with some really cool people, have some good laughs, & we never quite know what the terrain is going to be like with either bunch.
But we've learned a pair of good knee-high socks is worth it's weight in antibiotic ointment.