July 18, 1991

Hash House Harriers Run for Fun

Hash House Harriers Run for Fun

Heidelberg, Germany (US Armed Forces Newspaper)
July 18, 1991
By Teri Oaks


A group of runners slow don as hey approach an intersection. They splinter off in separate directions. The words “on, on” penetrate the air and the runners bolt in the direction which the words came.

The Heidelberg Hash House Harriers are at it again, exercising in a most peculiar way. For this running and social club, speed is not the issue. In fact, the first one to finish the run has the dubious honor of being last the next run. That person acts as the “hashsweep,” making sure everyone finishes.

The Hash House Harriers originated in Kuala Lumpur in 1938, according to Richard Dugan, assistant chief of the management branch in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Engineer and a hashmaster. The story goes that a Briton tried sweating out a weekend bender by running. Apparently it worked because he was joined by a few mates the next time. They topped off the run by going to a Chinese eating house they called “the hash house” to have ice cold beer. Gradually, the number of participants increased, the distance was extended and a truck brought beer to the finish point.

During World War II, the group stopped running. An enthusiast brought back the club afterwards and hashing has continued to grow in popularity. During the 1960s hashing expanded to Australia, where more clubs are found than anywhere else except Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Hashing is also one of the fastest growing sports in the United States.

Today, hashes are found around the world. Dugan says there may be around 3,000 clubs. Known as the “Underlubber”, at hashes, Dugan has participated in hashes in Japan and Korea. Dugan got his name because he worked for another hasher “Landlubber” who ran in the same group.

Although the club roster carries 85 members, about 20 to 30 people participate in runs once a week, alternating on Sunday and Monday. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Clay Kelley, Asst. Chief of Staff for Logistics at Headquarters, 1st Personnel Command, says that's the beauty of the organization. Members participate when they want to and are not pressured to show up for every run. There are some members who don't miss a hash, however, like Kelley, know as “Slippery Seaman” in the hash (Kelley got the name because he once sailed from Japan to Taiwan to run in a hash).

A veteran hasher of ten years Kelley and his wife, “More Leggs” (Karla Kelley, an occupational therapist with the Exceptional Family Member Program at the 130th Station Hospital) met at a hash in South Carolina five years ago. They had a hash wedding in November 1989.

Hash procedures vary from club to club, said Slippery Seaman. The Heidelberg club appoints two people called hares who get a 15 minute head start and lay a trail with hash, a combination of flour and sawdust. The biodegradable substance washes away in the rain. The runners follow the trail and try to catch up with the hares. The hares are wily, however, and lay bad trails to throw runners off.

The runners have a few tricks of their own. As Dirty Dancer (Jim Pattison with the Civilian Personnel Office) put it, “there are no rules in hashing.” Once Dirty Dancer laid a complicated trail in a hilly, wooded area. The pack lost the trail, he said, but saw him in the distance as he laid a switchback. Having spotted the hare, the hashers cut through the woods and caught him.

At the end of the run, there is a social gathering called an “on-on.” While some hashers prefer the traditional beer, others drink nonalcoholic beverages. Whatever the choice, the Heidelberg club ensures it will be waiting at the end of the trail.

“Down-downs” are usually drunk to commemorate the hares, the newbies, and all others who may have “accomplished something.” For instance, the Heidelberg Hash House Harriers bestow a name upon a new member after the completion of six runs. The name usually has something to do with the runner's appearance, personality, or a hobby.

Some hash clubs cater to males or females, but the Heidelberg club is coed. It's more fun that way, according to Underlubber. As the Hash house Harriers expand and adjust to societal changes, one thing will always be constant – fun and good company. Some members may seem a little crazy too. As a member of the Hong Kong Hash said: “If you have half a mind to join the hash, that's all you need.”

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