Hashing: The Fun Way to Run

“A drinking club with a running problem,” is how most Hashers will refer to their club. You might have seen Hashers running around an early Wednesday evening in your own hometown, dressed up in costumes or stopping in at a brewery mid-run. You might wonder who that group is you see running around in red dresses once a year. But even when you ask one of them, it’s not clear. What’s a Hasher, after all?

The Hash House Harriers are an international organization of running social clubs, with over 2000 chapters around the world from Bejiing to New Orleans. There are even two chapters down in Antartica. The runs are known as hashes or hashing, and the participants might call themselves hashers or hounds, depending on where in the world you are.

The history of this global phenomenon actually goes all the way back to 1938, when it was invented by British officers stationed in Malaysia as a fun way to burn off all the alcohol from the weekend before. It was originally patterned after an old-fashioned British fox and hound chase, with one member marking out a trail that the other members need to find and follow. It took off around the world, but in 1962 Ian Cumming brought the casual sport to the United States, and it spread fast.

After all, what’s not to like? Modern hashes are a great place to not only get some exercise and keep up your motivation, but also make some friends as well. Usually taking place once a week, hash courses are designed by other members, and over the years people have gotten creative. Though most chapters stick to the tried and true tradition of running then drinking, you can find snorkeling hashes, bike hashes, tri-hash-athons, and even “disaster” hashes. Hashes take place in urban cities, rural parks, and everywhere in between.

But the basic formula is the same. The “hare” who marks the trail runs ahead and leaves special marks to define the trail the “hounds” will try and follow. Certain marks will tell the hounds when there’s a false trail, a shortcut, a backtrack, or a turn. Along the way, members will use whistles to communicate with each other, whistles that mean “new runner” or “you’re on the right track.” And per the original group, often there are at least one of two beer stops along the way. And there’s definitely more beer when the run is done.

If you’re a reluctant runner, hashing is an excellent way to keep yourself motivated, and it doesn’t matter what level runner you are. Since it is non-competitive, most members say the camaraderie becomes the important part, and clubs often become super close. In a world of Crossfit and competitive sports, this fun, casual weekly run is a happy antidote to Gym Pressure.

To find a chapter of the Hash House Harriers in your area, check out their website: http://www.hashhouseharriers.com/local-hashes/