“Hashing”…in case it is a new term to you, as it was to me until this morning … can be described as a “drinking club with a running problem.”
The technical name is “The Hash House Harriers”…but it is abbreviated to HHH, H3, or referred to simply as Hashing. Hashing is an international group of non-competitive running, social and drinking clubs. An event organized by a club is known as a Hash or Hash Run, with participants calling themselves Hashers or Hares and Hounds.
The Hash House Harriers has chapters called kennels. A chapter’s management is typically known as the MisManagement and consists of individuals with various duties and titles. There are more than 1,700 chapters spanning all seven continents. Most major cities are home to at least one chapter. Chapters typically contain between 20-100 members, usually mixed-sex, with some metropolitan area Hashes drawing more than 1,000 hashers to an event.
Hashing originated in December 1938 in Kuala Lumpur when a group of British colonial officers and expatriates began meeting on Monday evenings to run, in a fashion patterned after the traditional British Paper Chase or “Hare and Hounds”, to rid themselves of the excesses of the previous weekend.
After meeting for some months, they were informed by the Registrar of Societies that as a “group,” they would require a Constitution and an official name. A. S. Gispert suggested the name “Hash House Harriers” after the Selangor Club Annex, where the men were billeted, known as the “Hash House” for its notoriously monotonous food. Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare and finding the trail, harriers reaching the end of the trail would be rewarded with beer, ginger beer and cigarettes.
The Constitution of the Hash House Harriers is recorded on a club registration card dated 1950:
To promote physical fitness among our members
To get rid of weekend hangovers
To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
Hashing died out during World War II after the invasion of Malaya, but was re-started after the war by most of the original group.
Hashing remained small until 1962, when Ian Cumming founded a chapter in Singapore. The idea then spread through the Far East, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and North America, booming in popularity during the mid-1970s.
At present, there are almost two thousand chapters in all parts of the world, with members distributing newsletters, directories, and magazines and organizing regional and world Hashing events. As of 2003, there are even two organized chapters operating in Antarctica.
Most chapters gather on a weekly or monthly basis, though some events occur sporadically, such as February 29th, Friday the 13th, or during a full moon.
At a Hash, one or more members (Hares) lay a trail, which is then followed by the remainder of the group (the Pack or Hounds). The trail often includes false trails, short cuts, dead ends, and splits. These features are designed to keep the pack together regardless of fitness level or running speed, as front-runners are forced to slow down to find the “true” trail, allowing stragglers to catch up.
Members often describe their group as “a drinking club with a running problem,” indicating that the social element of an event is as important, if not more so, than any athleticism involved. Beer remains an integral part of a Hash, though the balance between running and drinking differs between chapters, with some groups placing more focus on socializing and others on running.
Generally, Hash events are open to the public and require no reservation or membership, but some may require a small fee, referred to as hashcash, to cover the costs incurred, such as food or drink.
The end of a trail is an opportunity to socialize, have a drink and observe any traditions of the individual chapter.
In addition to regularly scheduled Hashes, a chapter may also organize other events or themed runs.
A common special event is the Red Dress Run, and is held annually by individual chapters. According to hasher lore, a newcomer in San Diego was invited to a hash; unbeknownst to her it was a running group, and she attended the run in a red dress instead of running clothes. After being mocked for wearing such an outfit she ran the trail anyway. Other hashers began wearing red dresses as a joke and the tradition soon became an annual event that spread across the world. The point of the run is that all participants (both sexes) don red dresses of various sorts. The Red Dress Run is typically the largest event organized by a chapter in a given year, with attendance topping 2,000 in San Diego, and 600 in Washington, D.C.. The largest Red Dress Run event is currently in New Orleans, with approximately 8,000 officially registered participants for RDR 2010. It is estimated more than 10,000 people in red dresses were in the French Quarter for RDR 2010 but not all had registered.
Hash House Bikers (Bike hashes or Bashes) follow normal hashing traditions with the hare and pack riding bicycles.
River Hashes (Rashes or Splashes) also follow normal hashing traditions but are done on a river with kayaks, floats, etc. using toilet paper on branches, balloons tied to anchor rocks, etc. as trail markers.
Family hashes welcome children (sometimes called Hash House Horrors or Ankle Biters) with soft drinks replacing alcoholic beverages and drinking songs toned down appropriately (sometimes).
Hashing has not strayed far from its roots in Kuala Lumpur. The hares mark their trail with paper, chalk, sawdust, or colored flour, depending on the environment and weather.
Special marks may be used to indicate a false trail, a backtrack, a shortcut, or a turn. The most commonly used mark is a Check, indicating that hashers will have to search in any direction to find the continuation of the trail. Trails may contain a Beer Check, where the pack stops to consume beer, water, or snacks, allowing any stragglers to catch up to the group.
Trails may pass through any sort of terrain and hashers may run through back alleyways, residential areas, city streets, forests, swamps, or shopping malls and may climb fences, ford streams, explore storm drains or scale cliffs in their pursuit of the hare.
Hashers often carry horns or whistles to communicate with each other, in addition to verbal communication. Every Hash House employs its own set of marks and the names for these marks may vary widely, so newcomers or visitors will have the local markings explained to them before the run at a Chalk Talk.
There are two types of trails. Live Trails are laid by hares who are given a head start, while Dead Trails are pre-laid hours or days before the Hash begins. Live trails and dead trails are also known as Live Hare and Dead Hare trails, respectively. Live trails are closer to the original “Hare and Hound” tradition, with the intent of the pack being to catch the hare rather than making it to the end, and are more common in the United States, while the rest of the world tends toward dead trails.
The reason for the above, is that hashing was new to me until this morning when someone near and dear told me he spent the night hashing in the streets and back allyways of Landstuhl Germany. He says he loved it and had a lot of fun participating. It involved a lot of people, three of whom he knew, running about 5 miles, with lots of detours and backtracking, trying to catch the hare … with two beers consumed along the way. He said it was the most fun he’d had in a long time and was looking forward to joining a hashing club in Cincy. I can appreciate the appeal of the social aspects of hashing. Oh to be young again!
Mostly taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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