It's beer run
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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.