THE HASH: JOGGING,
BEER, AND SONG
January 23, 1989
By Bob Neff
When I first read about the
Hash House Harriers in a spy novel, I assumed they
were the author's invention. He portrayed the group
as a pack of seemingly demented Caucasian men who
regularly and noisily jog through the streets of Hong
Then about six years ago at
a party in Tokyo, I learned that the Hash was for
real when I met a British insurance executive who
described himself as the head of the Tokyo Hash. It
wasn't long before I had joined what could be the
fastest-growing "club" of the 1980s.
With close to 750 loosely
organized chapters (including 90 in the U.S.) spread
throughout more than 100 countries, the Hash is
dedicated to weekly noncompetitive runs,
beer-drinking, and irreverence. A very informal group
that welcomes visitors, the Hash can be a great
antidote to loneliness when you're in a strange city.
It's an easy way to meet new people in your own
bailiwick, too. I have even found it valuable for
making business contacts since it attracts the likes
of stockbrokers, diplomats, and lawyers -- men and
women in their mid-20s to mid-60s.
The Hash was founded in
1938 in Kuala Lumpur by a grab bag of bored
expatriates whose favorite hangout was a restaurant
affectionately called the Hash House. Hashing itself
is based on the old English game of Hare and Hounds.
Two hares mark the trail in advance with flour,
chalk, or shredded paper. To slow down the fast
runners and give the laggards a chance to catch up,
the hares set lots of checkpoints, false trails, and
loops. When the hounds are sure they're on the right
trail, they yell, "On! On!" and the Hash
Horn toots his bugle.
A well-set run covers about
five miles in unfamiliar territory, lasts about an
hour, and gets the entire pack to the "On,
In" -- the destination, usually a bar or park --
at the same time. So at an average of 12 minutes a
mile even a barely fit jogger can make it. Waiting at
the On In are plenty of cold beer and ribald songs.
Hashing was interrupted by
World War II while it was still confined to Malaysia.
But it was revived in the 1950s and by 1962 the
pastime had reached Singapore. It slowly spread to
other Asian communities, with Western expatriates
taking the activity home with them -- and to
subsequent postings. Last July more than 2,500
Hashers flocked to Bali for the biannual Interhash.
GUYS AND GALS. Once stag,
most hash groups are now coed, an some are organized
by women. A typical weekly run ranges in turnout from
as few as a dozen runners to 80 or so. Depending on
the location and the season, the run could be on a
weekday evening or a weekend. Expect to pay a flat $5
to $8 for refreshments.