Malaysian Airlines Magazine
September 1, 1998

Hash Bash

Malaysian Airlines Magazine


Interhash '98 in Kuala Lumpur celebrates the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Hash House Harriers in Malaysia's capital.

Interhash '98 in Kuala Lumpur not only celebrates a major sporting event, it also celebrates the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Hash House Harriers in the nation's capital. All those attending will have the opportunity to run where the original founders ran including legendary men like A. S. Gispert Cecil Lee, "Horse" Thomson and Torch Bennet.

Many new members will be visiting Kuala Lumpur for the first time, and those who have run here before will be welcoming the opportunity to meet old friends and fellow hashers from all over the world.

The event, organized by nine hash chapters in Kuala Lumpur, runs from October 2 to 4. It is planed to attract 6,000 runners, plus their families, from 60 countries, including Australia, Europe, United States, Indonesia and New Zealand. The event is expected to generate RM$100 million in foreign exchange for Malaysia.

The major sponsors of Interhash '98 are Malaysia Airlines, the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism, the Malaysian Tourist Promotion Board, Guinness Anchor Beer, Adidas and SA Tours.

The celebrated running event has a colorful history. The original idea was to mimic the Hare and Hounds or Fox and Hounds style chases that have been around for centuries in one form or another. Some "gentle-men" substituted men for the game in an effort to add something different to the sport. There is evidence of this in colonial America as well as in England. It seemed a logical development then, to substitute the hounds with runners as well. Men, not as well endowed as dogs with a sense of smell, required a trail of some sort to track their quarry. Paper seemed the ideal solution. This sport was well entrenched long before these sportsmen became known as "hashers" and the sport was referred to as Hounds and Hares or the Paper Chase.

The Hash House Harriers had its humble beginnings in 1938 with an Englishman named Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert, in what is now Malaysia. Having a fondness for the "paper chase," he gathered together a group of expatriates - including Cecil Lee, "Horse" Thomson and "Torch" Bennet – to form a group in Kuala Lumpur that would later become a worldwide legacy. The fraternity received its name from the Selangor Club Chambers, which due to its lacklustre food was commonly referred to as the "Hash House."

Almost a dozen runs took place, although attendance could sometimes be counted on one hand. The sport was cut short during World War II, but then re-established when peace returned. It was some time before the international phenomena we are familiar with today began spreading around the world. A hash was formed in 1947 in Bordighera, Italy (near Milan) by some former members of the original Hash House Harriers. It ceased operations for many years but was reborn in 1984 and is now quite alive and well as the Royal Milan and Bordighera HHH.

It wasn't until 1962 that the next official group was formed in Singapore. The Singapore HHH was slowly followed by others until by the 1,500th postwar run in 1973, there were 35 known hashes around the world This figure climbed into the hundreds by the 1980's and there are now well over 1,300 active hashes.

The main difference between hash groups is their emphasis on the sporting versus social aspects of hashing. Some choose to maintain the tradition of a live hare hash chasing runners while they lay a trail after being given a few minutes head start. They thrill in the hunt the occasional catch and the notion that there is a real pursuit in progress during the event.

Other hashes have shunned the competitive nature of the live hare hashes, pre-laying the trail with a number of marks designed to keep the pack together. These gathering checks and other delaying marks allow the hashers of the dead hare hashes to sing and make merry from point to point, emphasizing the social aspects of the sport.

Regardless the event, hashing knows no age boundaries, with family hashes and children's hashes, as well as members from all ages, with hashers in their 70's or even older. So there's no reason to not join. As one popular Hash House Harriers' motto goes: "If you've half a mind to join the hash, that's all you need!"

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