The dotty Dash is the real deal

So you’ve been there, and won that. You have speed-climbed Everest in a couple of hours, carrying your own Sherpa. You’ve skipped through the Gobi Desert armed only with a handkerchief, wafted up Mt Kinabalu and zoomed the entire length of the Great Wall.

But if you haven’t run 5km through the underbrush of South Lantau in Hong Kong, dressed as a yellow piece of Lego and three sheets to the wind, you haven’t done any real running at all.

The Lantau International Beer Dash, as this delightfully bonkers charity run is known, is held every March and is only gaining in notoriety. Much is at stake. Manned drinking posts, groaning under the weight of beer generously donated by sponsors, beckon temptingly.  It’s only the steeliest competitors that cross the finish line at Cheung Sha Beach still able to run in anything approaching a straight line.

”The registration quota fills up in a matter of days each year,” says Melanie Potgieter, sport-loving South African whose brainchild the Beer Dash is. “We typically see at least 15 nations represented, and we have had participants fly in especially from Dubai, the Philippines, Britain, USA, and Germany.”

Ah yes, the German Drinking Team, one of my fondest memories from the Dash of 2013. Dressed simply in black T-shirts and mullet wigs, they kept shouting “Prost, ihr Arschlochs!” (“Cheers, you arseholes”), a charming greeting that was also written on the back of their shirts in Gothic script.

Other racers are dressed as bespectacled grinning giraffes, or as geishas twirling charming Japanese umbrellas. There are Chinese emperors, empresses and banner men; gladiators and pirates; mermaids with flowing locks and Hawaii-shirted surfer dudes with surfboards – not a good idea, they discover by the second kilometre. There are Red Guards waving Mao’s Little Red Book; brides and grooms saluting each other with cans of San Miguel; black and white cows with udders dangling suggestively as they flop across the finish line; green dinosaurs or possibly alligators . . .

In 2012, the best costume had to be the active activists from Lantau’s own Living Island Movement. These normally buttoned-up gentlemen strode forth dressed as the infamous Shek Kwu Kau Incinerator, complete with smoke-belching chimneys. Yes, it’s possible to make political and sartorial statements, as well as having a rollicking good time.

Fat and thin, elderly and still in nappies, solicitors and students, seasoned tipplers and those embarrassed by a single beer, all competing in the most uncompetitive manner: here there were no rivals, only drinking buddies new and old.

To keep fun-hating government officials away from the Dash and to make it easily manageable, the maximum entry is set at 350. So if you have been waiting for the chance to run dressed as the Bank of China, Star Ferry or a hamster, be sure to mark your calendar for next March. The restaurants and bars of Cheung Sha Beach will be waiting with open taps.

First published in May/Jun 2017 issue.