Hash House Harriers
"The drinking club with a running problem"
The Hash House Harriers
The Hash House Harriers are an international group of non-competitive running, social and drinking clubs. The idea is based on the old public school hare and hounds paper chase. A trail is set by a 'hare' using non-permanent materials such as chalk, flour or sawdust. The pack follows this trail and uses co-operation and team work to regain the trail where ever it disappears. The trail itself is only constrained by the immediate environment, and the hare's imagination. It could be set through streets and footpaths, parks and forests, swamps, jungle, car parks, hotel lobbies, etc, etc.
Hashing could take you anywhere. Ever heard of The Feathers in Rickmansworth? I'm from Surrey so I certainly hadn't until I turned up there on my first ever hash. Hashers wear distinctive t-shirts, so it was easy to strike up a conversation whilst following the 'P' trail to the pub. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming that before the 'on-out' I felt that I already had a new bunch of mates - about 30 of them!
Soon my fears about being left behind were proven unfounded as we followed the trail along a very picturesque canal. Suddenly the front runners turned around and the whole pack reversed direction. What had happened? We had hit a 'false trail'. Hashing is non-competitive, and the hare will add features such as checks and false trails to slow the front runners down and keep the pack together. In an instant I had gone from somewhere near the back of the pack to somewhere near the front.
The surprises were not over. There had been talk of a drink stop at the on-out, which I had imagined to be bottles of water handed out like you see on the London Marathon. Oh no, the banana flavoured concoction that was passed around was definitely not water, and was definitely very alcohol based. I was really starting to like hashing.
The socialising continued back at the pub. After enjoying running along the picturesque canals, lakes and streams of Rickmansworth I got to see what a 'circle' was. How many running clubs have a built-in comedy routine? Running is boring, hashing isn't.
The following Monday I was back, this time hashing on Hampstead Heath. Since 2008 the hash has taken me all around London and out as far as Vietnam, Borneo and Japan. Any regrets? Yes, that I had not discovered hashing sooner.
What Makes a Hash
The 'P' trail
We meet at a pre-designated public house at a pre-arranged time (see our run list for details of when and where). The pub will be walking distance from a main line or underground station. A 'P' trail will be marked from the station. Quite simply this is a trail of the letter 'P' (for pub) marked in chalk or flour.
The pub will be expecting us, and will have set aside a place for us to leave bags while we are out running. We tend to stand out a mile from the locals due to our scruffy trainers and specially printed hash t-shirts. If you are new then just approach one of us and say 'hello'.
The 'on-out' is called and all hashers assemble in an area outside the pub. Visitors and 'virgins' are welcomed, and the 'hare' will give a brief talk about the trail that he has set.
The run begins. The pack heads off at a casual pace following chalk or flour markings. It's totally non-competitive, and no one treats it like a race. Shouts are passed among the pack as we go. The most common is 'on on', meaning simply that we are on trail.
Checks and False Trails
Checks and false trails are features which are designed to keep the pack together by slowing down the front runners and allowing the slower runners to keep up. Shortcuts are totally acceptable. Stick with the hare to find out where they are.
The drink stop is exactly what it sounds like, a stop mid trail for drinks. Not every trail will have a drink stop, but if there is one you can bet that it will be alcoholic.
'On Inn' is something that you may at some point see chalked on the ground. This means that the pub is near. Head to the bar and get yourself a drink. We find that most virgins are comfortably familiar with this process. Some pubs may lay out jugs of water in anticipation of our return.
After all hashers have returned to the pub, someone will shout 'circle up'. This is the ceremonial part of the proceedings. Nothing formal, just pure fun. The hare is congratulated (or maybe not) on his trail and given a complementary down-down. A down-down is simply the act of downing a pint whilst being encouraged with song by the rest of the pack. Visitors and virgins are again welcomed, followed by down-downs for actions or misdemeanours during, or before the hash. Examples of such misdemeanours include falling arse-over-tit, answering a mobile mid run, or attempting to leapfrog a sundial whilst not realising that there is a large spike in the middle of it - yes it has been done! Hot tip: we look down on new shoes and have a special ceremony for anyone caught wearing them.
A Bunch of Mates
General socialising continues, like you are with a bunch of mates down the pub - which is exactly what we are. Sometimes food may be laid on - hash grub, then hashers filter away with parting greetings such as 'good to see you', 'hope to see you next time'. We sincerely hope that you did enjoy your first hash and that we do see you again, but for now, on on!
Running is Boring
Any doctor will tell you that running can provide a good cardiovascular workout, but let's face it, running on your own can be sooo boring. The same ol' circuit, same ol' sights, and honestly, how much social interaction do you really get as you are plodding around another lap of the same ol' park? Ever found it difficult to summon the motivation to get those trainers on and head out into the world, even when it's not raining? Allow me to let you into a secret. It does not have to be like that. Hashing removes the monotony from running and adds fun, adventure, camaraderie and exploration. Running is boring. Hashing is not.
We like to view the world with a sense of humour. Unfortunately the immigration officers at a US airport did not see the funny side when they asked a visiting hasher for the purpose of his visit, and he replied 'oh I'm running hash'!
Today the word 'hash' has a very different meaning to what it did back in 1938 when our founder, A.S. Gispert, was asked for the official name of his new social club. Ever heard of corned beef hash? Right, hash back then was low quality monotonous food. This was the fare served up by the annex of the Selangor Club in which Gispert and his friends met. For this reason it was locally known as the Hash House. See our Wikipedia entry for more about our history.
On turning up at your first hash you will be introduced to people with strange and bizarre names such as 'Martian Matron', 'Boy Blunder' and 'Bulldozer'. These are hash names. You can't choose your own hash name. Names are earned, and behind every name there is a story. Such as the harriet who on hearing someone exclaim 'there is a couple of guys peeing in a doorway over there' decided to run back to have a look. The pack unanimously agreed that her hash name should be 'Golden Retriever'.
The check is the main method that the hare uses to slow the front runners down and keep the pack together. Quite simply it is a circle with no obvious onwards trail. Hashers spread out in all directions to find the trail, which gives the rest of the pack time to catch up.
Hashing was started in Kuala Lumpur in 1938 by British expats. Now almost every country in the world has a club or 'kennel'. This makes hashing perfect for anyone who travels regularly for business or pleasure and wishes to meet-up, socialise, and see parts of the city that they may otherwise never have seen.
Hashing is also a very good way to see the world. Kennels will organise events to celebrate milestones such as 25 years or 2000 runs, and everyone is invited. Events will also be arranged on a geographical basis. Every two years is Interhash where thousands of hashers from all over the world gather to run trails and socialise. On alternate years regional gatherings are organised such as Eurohash and Inter-Americas.
You Guys Sound Fun, How Do I Join?
Quite simply all that you need to do is turn up at a hash and get talking to someone in one of our distinctive hash t-shirts. Our run list details the start time and location of each hash. Follow the 'P' trail from the station to the pub and say 'hello'.