Maxim Magazine
May 1, 1999

Beer Run


Beer Run

Hashing is a sport that encourages beer drinking, occasional nudity, and good health. If there were any justice, it would be an Olympic event.

Maxim Magazine
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 shit-faced.

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.

Hare Essentials

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 the bunny.

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 last).

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 cocaine."

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.

Running Gags

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 replied, "Beer!"

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 me.

 


- Sidebar -

Slinging Hash

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 Ballard

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