Hashing is a sport that encourages beer
drinking, occasional nudity, and good health. If
there were any justice, it would be an Olympic event.
May 1999, pp: 76-79
By Chris Ballard
When I first heard of the Hash House Harriers, I
could almost hear my inner Bluto Blutarsky belching
in approval. A friend of mine described the hashers
as members of a strange kind of club that not only
manages to take the boredom out of running but throws
in liberal helpings of alcohol and some occasional
debauchery to boot. They hate being called joggers
and refer to themselves as an "international
drinking club with a running problem." Other
people, it must be noted, refer to them as crazy sons
of bitches who like to run, scream, and get
Led by my decadent liver, I decided to investigate
further. Among other things, I learned that hashers
chase one another in a half-assed race that's part
scavenger hunt, part kegger. Anyone can join, and
there are more than 1,500 hash clubs in more than 100
countries. Hell, they even have 800 numbers.
So I call one. The guy on the end of the line
tells me to show up at a parking lot in Wilmington,
Delaware, on the following Saturday. He instructs me
to wear a pair of ratty running shoes.
When I arrive, about 30 hashers are stretching in
the parking lot. One of them fills me in on the basic
idea: A lone runner, the "hare." Hops off
carrying a bag of flour. He spreads a handful of it
on the ground every 30 yards or so, laying out a
grueling five- to six-mile cross-country course.
About 15 minutes after he leaves, the rest of us -
the hounds - head off in hot pursuit. The goal: Catch
Sounds simple enough. After all, the flour-toting
sap has to stop and lay out his markers, right? But
it's not that simple; the hare sets up false trails
and fake loops to throw the pack off the scent. These
can wind a half-mile off the real path, ensuring that
even the fleet-footed FRBs (front running bastards)
can lose their way and finish DFL (dead fucking
To further enliven the game and confuse the
players, the hare sets up beer stops, where everyone
pauses to chug cold ones. The beer stop might be a
cooler of Schlitz next to a fallen tree, or a parked
van with a keg in the back. Sometimes on an urban
course, the beer stop is a bar. Or two. Runners
arrive at the stop, guzzle for about 10 minutes, then
continue on. At the Delaware hash, the organizers
saved all the beer for the end - what better
incentive to actually finish?
A sport that encourages liquor consumption could
only originate with the British. It was, in fact, a
bunch of limey expats hanging out in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, in 1938 who decided that a Monday jog would
be the perfect way to sweat off their weekend
hangovers. To make it more interesting, they played
the English schoolyard game of hare and hounds, in
which a runner marks out a "scent" with
scraps of paper while pursuers try to catch up with
him. Afterward the colonial boozers would head to the
Selangor Club - known as the Hash House - where as
drunkards are wont to do, they got hammered all over
again. Thus began a fine tradition. World War II put
a damper on hashing for some years, but in 1962 a man
named Ian Cumming started up a group in Singapore.
Disciples soon began spreading out across the globe.
Let the Hash Begin
As we head out onto the trail, I introduce myself
to the man on my left, a fine gent named Circle Jerk.
Alotta Fagina, the woman on my right, tells me that
every runner must have a crude hash name, usually
derived from their job or physical appearance. A
flirtatious chiropractor becomes Bone Me, while an
older runner with a wandering eye is Crib Snatcher.
"Maybe we'll even give you a name by the end of
the run," the 32-year-old Ms. Fagina tells me. I
can hardly wait.
The trail quickly veers into some nearby woods,
and we fight our way through shrubs and leg-slicing
brambles. The front runners don't hesitate, barreling
along oblivious to the thorns. To seasoned hashers,
the opportunity to bushwhack is actually appreciated;
the brain-numbing boredom of running around the track
is not. In fact, the more creative route, the better
the hash. This sometimes leads to problems. Hashers
tell tales of stumbling onto armed guerrilla rebels
in foreign jungles and of being chased through the
Library of Congress as they hunted down the hare.
Once in Gainesville, Florida, cops showed up because
someone reported "a stoned druggie throwing
cocaine on the ground." The hasher argued his
case along these lines: "I would have to be most
definitely crazy if I was throwing away handfuls of
Despite hashers' tendency to cause public
spectacles - as when they dash through malls or run
naked - actual arrests are rare. "When there are
problems with the cops, an older guy, like myself,
will usually talk it out diplomatically," says
52-year old Pail "Flying Booger" Woodford,
a veteran of more than 500 hashes who lives in
Arizona. "Once we tell them it's just a running
club, we're usually all right. If that doesn't work,
well, we're the ones wearing running shoes."
Slopping through a muddy creek, I'm wishing I was
wearing hiking boots, not running shoes - the
constant stump hurdling and hill charging make the
three miles we've run feel like seven. Luckily the
front-runners have come to a "check," which
means the trail splits and there's a brief respite
while hashers fan out in all directions, searching
for the true path. The pack shouts out, "Are
you?" - as in, Are you on the trail? - and the
answer comes back, "Checking." Finally a
short, bearded hasher named Gomez catches the scent
and bleats out, "On! On!" We scamper
through the brush in pursuit.
There was a time when hashes were overwhelmingly
male, but now they're usually about 60:40 guys to
women, a ratio that nicely accommodates the time
tested fraternity formula Alcohol plus women
equals fun. "Hashing romance?"
laughs Joan "Goulash" Failmezger, a
39-year-old Texas hasher who met her husband on the
trail. "Yeah, there's a fair amount of that.
It's a great place to meet cool people." And the
male perspective" "How do I put this
delicately?" says a D.C. hasher. "They're
not exactly floozies, but, well, you know..."
Such loose - nay, downright wanton - behavior is
often supported within hashing circles. Take the Red
Dress Run, one of the world's largest cross-dressing
spectacles, in which hashers sporting red dresses
invade the streets and trails. It all started 10
years ago, when the confused date of a California
hasher arrived at a post-run party wearing fancy red
number - a distinct contrast to all the sweaty
T-shirts. She then proceeded to, uh, get into the
spirit, and obliged when the hashers asked if they
could lift up her dress. Surprise no panties. To
commemorate this fine woman, San Diego hashers began
holding an annual Red Dress Run.
The tradition spread to Washington, D.C., where
last fall 605 hashers took to the streets of the
nation's capital in red gowns (except for two guys in
blue dresses with strategically placed white stains).
They caused all kinds of traffic jams and chanted
"Monica! Monica!" in front of the White
House. And when asked what cause they were running
for - this was D.C., after all - they gleefully
The Home Stretch
As we emerge from the woods, a runner named
Snowballs at the front of the pack spies the letters BN
marked on the ground. He starts chanting, "Beer
near!" signaling that the run is almost over.
(The hare may also tell a runner where the finish is
so nobody gets lost or jumps into a car and drives
straight to the party, ditching the running portion
of the event altogether.) There's still no sign of
the hare, but nobody gives a damn about anything
except reaching the "apres." Or post-run
party spot, where beer and more beer is the pot of
gold at the end of the rainbow.
In this case, the apres is the hare's apartment. I
plop down on a couch, dirt-caked and leaden-legged.
Just as I'm getting comfortable, I'm roused from my
sedentary bliss and told it's time for the
"down-downs." We head outside, form a
circle on the lawn, and watch as various hashers are
rebuked for such grievous offenses as finishing
first, being the hare, wiping out on the trail - just
about anything, really. The guilty runners suck down
brews as the group sings, "Drink it down, drink
it down, down." (Hashers, as you might have
noticed are not fond of complicated lyrics.) I have
to pound a beer as a penalty for being a hash virgin,
then a second one for committing the sin of
"wearing a hat while chugging." As I finish
it, Snowballs decides they should have a naming for
me, the writer. Fine. I grasp another beer, tilt my
head back, and start drinking as the chant of
"Pencil Dick! Pencil Dick!" erupts around
- Sidebar -
Wanna start your own hash club? All you need is a
functioning liver and a pair of running shoes. Here's
how to get the show on the road.
- Round up the hounds. Set a date and
call your friends who run. Now call your
friends who drink beer. If you've only got
the latter, promise them a keg and mumble
something about "a little
exercise." To recruit runners, head to a
track or 10K race and mention a
"cross-country fun run." Mumble
something about "a beer or two."
- Mark the Spot. Scout o location (a
park, the woods, a mall) and pick an apres
site (a restaurant, a bar, the rest room of a
fancy china shop). For your first run, lay
out the trail ahead of time. Toss handfuls of
flour on the ground every 30 yards or so. Go
for five miles, and make one false trail, a
series of splotches that begins at a
"check" - marked with a floury (x)
- and ends in a BT, meaning
"backtrack." Never forget: The more
opportunities for causing a public
disturbance, the better the route.
- Hit the Trail. Once everyone arrives,
explain the rules, the trail markings, and
the payoff: beer and grub at the finish. To
get 'em revved up, provide a cooler of brews
at the start. Collect "hash cash"
donation to cover the beer, then lead the way
onto the trail, shouting "On! On!"
- Commence Chugging. After the hash,
initiate "down-downs" (drinking)
and bestow nicknames. Ask for a volunteer to
hare the next run.
- Invest in the Future. As your hash -
and the hash cash - grows, set up a phone hot
line and a Web Page. Or just buy better beer.
For more info, visit or order the Hash Bible
from Global trash (800-736-4274). - Chris