Arizona Republic
March 30, 1996

'Hashing' Steeped in Tradition, Alcohol

'Hashing' steeped in tradition, alcohol

Saturday, March 30, 1996
Arizona Republic
Page A1
By Richard Ruelas (Staff Writer)

Drinking Club has running problem

They run to keep alive a tradition started by colonial Brits 58 years ago.

They run for the camaraderie of their fellow athletes.

They run for the exhilaration of pushing their bodies to the limit.

And because there is beer.

They're called hashers. Their sport is hashing. Their motto: The drinking club with a running problem.

They drink before their 5-mile runs. They drink during their runs. They drink when they finish their runs. They drink when they hand out awards and penalties after their runs.

Hashing is a human hare-and-hound game first begun by British colonial officers in Malaysia in 1938. The hashing phenomenon has spread worldwide, but slowly, probably because it's difficult to explain why all the running and why all the drinking. It didn't hit the U.S. shores until the early 1970s.

And it didn't hit Chandler until 17 months ago.

Every hash-house club needs a hash house, a bar to hang out in before the run. For Chandler's Zonie Hash House Harriers, it's Sticks and Steaks, a dark, modestly decorated bar where a handful of hashers meets for the pre-chase beer known in hashing lingo as the "on-before."

And it's here where the members are trying to explain the history of the hash.

In Malaysia for World War II, some English soldiers and expatriates started running to keep in shape. To keep it interesting, one guy ran ahead and marked a trail for the others to follow. To keep the interest up, they had a servant meet them at the end of the run with a tub of beer.

Hashing around the world

They named the club after their hash house, the nickname for their military mess hall. The tradition spread as the original members did, around the world.

Somewhere along the way, members started making up hashing names for themselves, most of them made up when they were drunk and most of the obscene.

Time to go to the run.

This one started from a park in east Mesa. There were about two dozzen runners. While waiting for the start, some drank beer.

One of the hares was Ricki-Ticki-Tavi, a 29-year-old whose real name is Ravi Kuttamparambth. The other was DINKI, who goes by Bob MacGregor when not hashing. Both took off 15 minutes ahead of the rest of the pack, armed with chalk sticks and flour to mark the trail.

Meantime, David Wilkie, the "mis-manager" of the club, whose hashing name is Dozy (biological bad word), explained the chalk markings and signals that the club uses.

A straight line means runners are "on trail." When a runner is on trail, he toots twice with is ever-present whistle. Curvy lines indicate turns. An asterisk, or check, means the trail splits, with only one being the correct path. At the end of the others will be three parallel lines meaning the runner has to backtrack and give three long toots.

Runners help each other along the trail, marking the bad trails and warning of time-consuming backtracks.

It's up to the hares to make the path creative. Creativity is known as "shiggy."

"Excellent trail. This is shiggy," puffed Mark Petiford, 36, of Chandler, as he followed flour lines through a muddy orange grove. Petiford wirtes his hash name "WTFRU." Don't ask what it means.

About halfway through the trail is the welcome "BC" sign - beer check. Runners meet around a tub of water, soda and, of course, beer. They catch their breath and gripe about the trail.

There were even complaints about the poor quality of the beer, but it was consumed anyway.

"It makes it painless," said Steve Stephens, chugging a brew.

Stephens has done more than 100 hashes. He is in the Air Force.

A sense of humor helps

"It's a social thing. there's people here who wouldn't think of going out and drinking and people here who wouldn't think of going out and running," he said. "You have to have a sense of humor. You can act a damn fool here if you like."

Besides the monthly Chandler hashes, Stephens and a few other also are members of the Phoenix Hash House Harriers, which hashes weekly. Stephens said the Phoenix runs are pretty much the same, except there's more beer.

This hashing habit is big-time. There's a directory of all the clubs worldwide. A hasher never goes on vacation without knowing whether there's a hash scheduled at his or her destination. Souvenir patches and T-shirts are worn as badges of honor.

Back on trail, WTFRU was lost. He wandered down the wrong path. He couldn't find the chalk mark telling which way to go.

WTFRU went through yet another orange grove on a hunch.

It was the correct path, but pointless. A few minutes later, 69derthal emerged from the same orange grove a couple yards away.

"Short-cutting," he yelled, letting those in earshot know they can skip that las grove and follow the street straight down to the end.

The run took about two hours.

Then came the penalty phase.

First to be penalized were the hares, DINKI and Ricki-Ticki-Tavi, for a horrible trail.They chugged a cup of beer while the crowd chanted, "5-4-3-2-1-Wear It." At that point, the hares took whatever beer was left in the cup and poured it on their heads.

Everyone was penalized for something. WTFRU was penalized for starting out walking then breaking into a run. Spinal Tap and Hasher Humper, a married couple visiting from the White House Hash House Harriers in D.C., were penalized for catching a car ride to the end. Trapper had to drink for complaining about being old.

Then DINKY came back with takeout from Taco Bell and there was much feasting.

"That's why I hash," said a grinning WTFRU

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