Daily Aztec Stanza
February 22, 1996

It's Beer Run Time



It's beer run time!


Hash House Harriers put a unique twist on happy hour

 

Daily Aztec Stanza
San Diego State University
Thursday, February 22, 1996

By Dawne Brooks
Asst. Stanza Editor

It's 7 on a Friday night. The traffic on Mission Bay Drive West has slowed down considerably since the rush hour and is only lit by headlights every minute or so. A group of 80 or so people, ages ranging from 18 to 75, wander about in various directions, some running up the sidewalk to the top of the bridge, some jaywalking across the street to the northern side of the bay.

The majority of the group has already made it to the northern side, trotting aimlessly in all directions, finding their way in the dark by the beams of tiny flashlights. Those who rely only on the moon for light are aided further by the whistle blowing of group members further ahead. Voices ring out into the open air, "On? On?" probing to discover if someone has found the right trail.

These individuals aren't members of the police force on a manhunt for an escaped convict. They haven't even lost anything. They're people who run in such conditions for one reason -- the pure enjoyment of it.

Healthy socializing

With California being a health and fitness mecca, it's not often you see the athletically inclined crossing over to the world of beer bellies and junk food. However, a select group of San Diegans, called Hash House Harriers, have given a whole new meaning to the words "beer run."

Borrowing from a tradition started in 1938 by a British expatriate named A.S. Gispert in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, these fun-loving individuals have taken up a sport, if it can even be labeled so, called "hashing." These unique runs got their name when Gispert, along with some of his friends who had decided to join him for his regular runs, incorporated the British schoolboy game of paper chase into their routines.

Instead of running their regular, boring path around a park, a selected runner, called the hare, would run ahead of the pack and scatter paper pieces every so often to make a trail. The hare's trail (these days laid in flour) would lead the other runners through woods, jungles and towns, into dead-ends and wrong directions, and even allow for shortcuts in the trail if the other runners were clever enough to find them.

More importantly, the trail always ended up at a grease pit of a restaurant, or hash house, where the runners would have dinner and some spirits. After continuing this traditional Monday-night run for some time, Gispert and his friends appropriately named themselves the Hash House Harriers and their event was thereafter known as hashing.

While those new to the hash may think they're not athletic enough to partake, local hashers explained the big attraction to hashing for newcomers is its non-competitiveness.

"We don't keep time in the hash and there's no winner," said John Theroux, a.k.a. Deep Throat, a "hardcore" member of the San Diego hasher community. "And not only is short-cutting allowed, it's encouraged. For people who can't run fast, if the hares do a good job, then the slow ones can take a shortcut across and catch up. Ideally, the hash is designed so the front and the back of the pack will finish at about the same time."

Theroux also noted that many participants walk the hash as well. Additionally, the hash has members as young as infants (pushed by their parents in baby joggers) to people who are 75. And the variety of members range from doctors and lawyers to Navy personnel and students.

Running amok

While everyone seems to be welcome at the hash, there are two requirements to participate in an event -- a demented sense of humor and a desire to have fun.

This usually starts when you're given your hash name. Do something stupid at that first hash and you're branded for life. Hash names like Wonderslong, Crank Me, Acres of Love and Raise Her Back may have come from such mishaps, or, even worse, may have been self-inflicted. No matter how they are received, a hash name is usually perverse and laced in sexual innuendoes, but generally good natured and fitting of the person.

And speaking of sexual innuendoes, the run itself is full of them. As Theroux said, "We always say the hash is a lot like sex -- you never know how hard it's going to be or how long it's going to last."

While the average hash lasts slightly less than an hour, with an overall distance of four to six miles, Theroux said he's taken part in hashes that have lasted nearly 6 hours and gone for approximately 18 miles.

That brings us to the "no rules" clause. In hashing, there are no rules. That means hashers aren't necessarily the best obeyers of traffic rules, either. As hasher John Thelen, a.k.a. Flashpants, explained, signs and signals are often ignored in the sport.

"If a hasher sees a 'No Trespassing' sign, we understand that to mean it's no trespassing for civilians," he said. "For hashers, we can come right on through."

Theroux added there's really no boundaries as to where a hash can run.

"We've run through the airport, through malls, through water -- you name it, we've run there," he said.

Of course, some of these adventurous hashes have run the participants straight into trouble. Theroux said he and his fellow hashers have seen their share of rattlesnakes, tarantulas and other creatures not quite as enthusiastic about the hash as they were. But in the end, it's all worth it for that brewski celebration.

And with the glory of finishing the hash comes the awards. Down-downs, an unofficial awards ceremony of sorts, recognizes particular hashers for their accomplishments at each run, although the awards aren't exactly ones to be envied, ranging from who lied the most at the hash to who so gracefully fell in some rough terrain. But the award is a bittersweet one, as the recipient downs a free beer while the other hashers sing catchy little running ditties.

Hashing U.S.A.

Having been active in the unusual sport of hashing for over 10 years, Theroux said he thinks the runs are a great and fun way to get exercise, meet people and travel. And he should know -- he's hashed in 22 countries.

"There's kind of an unofficial network of hashes around the world," Theroux explained. "You can go to virtually any big city and find a hash going on somewhere or sometime."

And among the cities of the world, San Diego is known to be a kind of hotbed of hashing. With 13 distinct hashes in the county, Theroux said there's virtually one for everybody's tastes.

"Every hash is a little bit different," he said. "They all have their own personalities, usually a lot like that of the people running them."

Some of the more diverse San Diego hashes include The Porter's Pub Hash, happening the second Tuesday of every month at the University of California at San Diego bar for $2, the Pickup Hash, taking place every other Wednesday night for a six-pack of beer and a bag of munchies and the The Full Moon Hash, running on a designated night around each full moon.

A few variations on the traditional hash have also sprung up. The San Diego Mission Harriettes, a hash originally started just for women, runs every other Wednesday night. While men are now welcome at the run, the officers of the hash are all women and have altered the rules a bit toward females. For instance, there must be two women leading the pack of hashers at all times and only women can solve the checks throughout the run.

Another local hash, called The Hare of the Dog, has altered its rules to be even more extreme, making the event a bicycle hash, rather than an on-foot adventure. The Hare of the Dog bikes every other Sunday morning.

Then there's the heralded annual Red Dress Hash, celebrating its ninth run this year. As if it needed any explanation, the participants, including males, wear red dresses for this particular run. And rumor has it the shopping trips for said dresses are almost as eventful as the run itself.

But perhaps the most popular hash in town is the Friday night San Diego Hash, which draws crowds of up to 250 people during the summer months. For the minimal fee of $5, a person can participate in the hash, enjoy a healthy dinner at the finish (cooked by the hares) as well as all the beer or soda one can drink. And, for those with a craving for junk-food after the run, there's always a table full of candy and munchies, too.

"The thing about the San Diego hashes is that it's a social thing," Thelen said. "We like to call ourselves a drinking club with a running problem."

For more information about hashing in San Diego, call 599-7448.

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