Minnesota Sports
December 1, 1995

Hashing it Out

Hashing it Out

Bored runners, terminal jocks, bawdy blokes, pranksters and other social misfits latch on to hashing for a goof time.

Minnesota Sports
December 1995
By Mark Thompson

An hour into our annual `'No Wimps Run," thigh deep in crusty snow and with a steady breeze dropping the wind chill into the negative teens, Plucky Squirrel stops and wheezingly yells at me: "You [deleted] masochist! "

Since I'd laid out the trail she was following with considerable reluctance and difficulty, there was only one acceptable reply: "Thanks!" And with a big, frosty grin beneath my "shark fur" hat, I gave her a hand out of the snowdrift and we plodded on, headed for the next beer stop.

This scene, in some form or another. is repeated every week in the Twin Cities by a thoroughly unorthodox group of runners called the Hash House Harriers. You may even have seen us while out on a training run or ride. A motley crew of people, looking at the ground or into the trees and periodically yelling "on-on,' or blowing whistles as we ran by. We probably looked like we were having fun— or in a lot of pain, depending on the circumstances.

Explaining hashing is a bit like describing sex to a virgin. If you've never done it, even the most detailed description won't really convey the essence of the experience. So perhaps it s best to list what hashing isn't: It's not a race. You can't win, nor can you lose, but you sure as hell can get lost.

There's no starting gun, no mile markers, no one yelling out splits— in fact, no time-keeping of any kind, other than the position of the sun or moon. You can shortcut the trail if you want and if you can figure out how.

There's no police escort through the streets, although occasionally one shows up to escort us out of wherever we are. There are no membership fees, no dues and no clubhouse, and the organizational details are handled by an elected Mismanagement chosen specifically for its questionable organizational abilities. There is a newsletter, the Hash Trash, chock-full of misinformation and rarely on time. And one key point: You'll nearly always be able to find the start, but sometimes you can't find the finish.

Hashing has its own jargon (see page 9). But basically, a "hare" lays out a trail using anything that is plentiful. cheap and often hard to see. We're chased down trails marked with flour, chalk marks, bits of cloth, crepe paper, spray paint, Polaroid photos and peel-off stickers (appropriately enough, of rabbits). One enterprising hare. having forgotten (or being too cheap) to buy flour, used piles of rocks to mark the trail. As you might have gathered. making the trail easy to find is not required. Indeed, a good trail will be confusing, with a lot of false trails to keep the pack confused

Sometimes these false trails are marked as such at their end, but sometimes not, and the hounds mill around searching until someone backtracks far enough to find the correct route. Checkpoints (usually marked with an "X") stop the group. Some fan out to find out where the trail resumes; others use it as a chance to catch their breath and pull the cockleburs out of their shorts.

And as you follow the trail, you either yell "on-on" or blow your whistle to let the others know where the trail goes.

The point of all of this commotion is to find and follow the trail to the various beer stops hidden along the route, and ultimately the finish, where there will be more beer. This fondness for the brew is why hashers often refer to themselves as "beer drinkers with a running problem."

Still, despite the emphasis on beer, there's no obligation to imbibe, partly because non-drinkers leave more for the rest of us. Water and pop are provided, and nobody makes a big deal about what you choose to consume.

The trail can go anywhere. Literally. we've hashed in the Minneapolis skyway system,, "on-on"-ing through Dayton's. Ditto the Mall of America and the airport. And one March evening we made the rounds of the state Capitol while the Legislature was in night session. Then there was one fine January when the trail led us to the top of Buck Hill Ski Area, where the hares had stashed sheets of plastic for us to slide to the bottom on. When the Super Bowl came to the Metrodome. the trail led through the crowds outside. And if the Pope ever does pay a visit to the Twin Cities on a Sunday, it's a pretty sure bet that the papal audience will include some cries of "On~n!"

The appeal of hashing is that you can have fun while also getting some kind of a workout.... sort of. You can run as hard or easily as you want, and there will be plenty of company.

Before I got into hashing, I was your typical amateur jock who trained all week, yet pretty much always finished in my customary 49th place during the weekend's race. It had gotten major league boring! Hashing was the miracle cure for terminal jockdom. A weekly excuse to run myself senseless and bloody (if I chose) or hang back and cruise and schmooze with people galloping along at a more sedate pace.

In either case, there's an interesting trail to find and follow. at least one beer stop, various songs and rowdiness, and wrapping it all up, the on-on-on (an informal party) at a local bar or restaurant.

While members of the official running community may look down their digital stopwatches at the rowdy hashing clans, hashing actually has a nearly 60-year history. In 1938, British military officers serving in Malaysia decided they needed a diversion and some exercise. Led by A.S. Gispert, a cross-country trail was marked with bits of paper, and the officers followed the trail to their local hangout, the Hash House. So they became the Hash House Harriers. Gispert died in 1941 defending Singapore against the Japanese, but his invention has survived and proliferated.

Today there are at least 1,200 hash chapters all around the globe. It's the least organized but by far the largest running organization in the world, with more than 100,000 members. You can travel virtually anywhere in this county and find a hash chapter, and visiting hashers are always welcomed. San Diego and Washington, D.C., are two hotbeds of hashing. The every-other-year Interhash, sort of the Olympics of hashing, is a truly international event, attracting more than 2,000 of the hash faithful from nearly 100 countries.

After some organizational hiccups, the Minneapolis Hash House Harriers (the shorthand is "MH3") came into existence late in 1989 Two-hundred and twenty-some runs later, we're still at it. Hashers you see, whatever their shortcomings in other areas, are most particular about keeping track of their run totals, both individually and for the club. It's about the only thing that is taken seriously and the only record of your accomplishments, such as they are. After completing 50 runs, and if you've set your share of trails, you earn an inscribed pewter mug, a prized possession.

Now as much fun as hashing is, it's clearly not for everyone. The two basic requirements are a bit of physical fitness and the ability to take a joke. If you get uptight about political correctness, then be warned that the hash is about as far from being PC as you can get. And while peak fitness is hardly a requirement, this ain't golf, either.

A typical trail will last from two to six miles, sometimes much more, and cross every hill, stream, forest. swamp and shopping mall in the vicinity. Local hashers come in every size, shape, color and level of athleticism. Mixed in with veteran marathoners and some very fast people are others who couldn't run an eight-minute mile if they were headed downhill with a 90-mph tail wind. It's OK. This isn't about speed, but about having fun. By running slow you also run less, because you don't spend as much time chasing down false trails and then backtracking as the fast people do.

Then there's the matter of hash names. There's a story behind most of them. "DQ," for example, is fast enough to have won a variety of 5 and lOKs, but his hash name has nothing to do with speed. Instead it comes from the day he stopped mid-hash at a Dairy Queen for a snack. (His wife, appropriately, is named "Buster Bar.")

"Stroke Her" spends her nonhashing spare time involved in rowing competitions.

"Clueless" is, well, you'd have to know him to appreciate how appropriate the name is. "Red Square" started hashing in Moscow.

"Sheila" is a he. who made the mistake of running with a bunch of Australian hashers who had a hard time pronouncing his last name and so he became "Sheila," Aussie slang for a woman.

Now, just like the name your parents gave you, you don't get to pick your hash name either. It's awarded to you in a christening ceremony (read: "beer") based on some notable accomplishment, weird physical characteristic, or no reason at all other than collective whim Naming ceremonies take strange twists.

Take "Road Kill," for example, a veteran hasher who had started out as "Crazy Annie." She got renamed one very dark and stormy April night of hashing, when she kept wandering into the street in front of oncoming traffic because her glasses were fogged over.

And what if you don't like your hash name? Well, complain about it enough and you're sure to be rechristened—with something worse!

Technically, hash names serve a purpose; If you're ever arrested for trespassing or being a public nuisance, at least you can't implicate anyone else.

One of the appeals of hashing is that you never have to worry about bad weather canceling a run. There is no such thing. Any hare that would even think of canceling a run just because of a blizzard, heat wave, heavy rain, tornado or a subzero temperature would never be allowed to live it down. The only things you can count on are death, taxes and the hash always going on as scheduled. In fact, the best turnouts are often those days with the worst weather.

One summer run comes to mind. Our first beer stop, in an open field, was graced with 3: mph winds, an inch of rain in 10 minutes, a 20 degree temperature drop and then hail! Besides creating a ton of mud, it also washed out the trail marks, leading to an hour's worth of getting lost before we finally found the second beer stop on what had by then become a hot and humid day.

And then there are the special hashes. The "No Wimps Run" is held on the coldest weekend of the winter, and the last one took more than two hours to finish. The fact that most of the runners were wearing tank tops (over other clothes), made it surreal. The annual summer Spew-a-thon, a three-day, four-run extravaganza of camp-outs, bonfires and continuous fun at a state park, always attracts a large crowd from throughout the Midwest. Then there's the Lingerie Run, where the required attire is cross-dressing. The Stupor Bowl Hash. held on Super Sunday, is followed by group game watching and eating.

There are four hashing groups in the Twin Cities. The regular hash meets every Sunday at 3 p.m. during the winter, or 6 p.m. in the alleged summertime. The Full Moon hash is on whatever day and time the full moon is present. The CRAP Hash (Coon Rapids, Anoka) meets the third Friday of every month at 8 p.m. at Grumpy's bar in Coon Rapids. And the Saint Paul Hash meets on the last Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., for those who just can't get enough hashing.

The Hash Warrmline (452-2708) is updated weekly (or sometimes weakly) with details (occasionally accurate) as to the location of upcoming runs. Or call Sheila at 780-9027 for guidance of the non-spiritual, geographic kind.

Because this story is certified 100 percent factual, you now have some weak idea of what hashing is all about. The next step is easy: lust show up next (or any) Sunday and give it a try. First-time and visiting hashers run free and are always welcomed. After your first run, costs are $5 for the main hash, $3 for the Saint Paul and Full Moon hashes and the CRAP hash is free.

So show up this Sunday, help yourself to a beer from the cooler and get acquainted with the group until the run begins. We'll clue you in on the rules, so we don't have to waste time later looking for you if you get lost. Then just run and have a good time.

You're sure to have some great stories to tell at work on Monday! Stick around for the on-on-on, and be absolutely, positively sure to wear your newest, cleanest shoes! On-On! ~

- Mark Thompson is managing editor of The Family Handyman, a Twin in Cities free-lance writer and, first and foremost, a Hash House Harrier.

The Unofficial Guide to Hash Lingo

Are-you?: Shouted at another hasher ahead of you. It's shorthand for "Are you on the trail?".

Check: Checkpoint. There are various kinds, but the most common is to simply stop the group and make everyone search for where the trail goes next.

Down-down: A reward or punishment, depending on the circumstances or whim of the Grand Master. Consists of drinking a full container of beer or pop in a short time, to musical accompaniment. Anything left over goes onto your head.

False trail: The more of these the better. They slow down the fast people so the rest of the pack can catch up.

FRB: Front-running bastard. The ones at the head of the pack, or fast runners in particular. They get the most exercise since they spend the most time on false trails.

Full Moon: A hash held once a month at the date and tune of the full moon. Yes, this is usually late at night.

H3: Shorthand for Hash House Harriers. The Minneapolis Hash is referred to as MH3.

Hare: The person who lays out the trail and supplies that day's refreshments.

Hash cash: The treasurer and also your run fee.

MOOS: Man (or men) of the opposite sex. Otherwise known as . women.

On-in: If it's there at all. this indicates the finish is near.

On-on: Shouted to let others know where the trail is when you find a trail mark. You can also blow a whistle or horn or set off flares.

On-on-on: The post-run party.

On-sec: Part of the Mismanagement. Sometimes called the "On-sex." Puts out the newsletter (the Trash) and keeps all the run totals for everyone. A thankless job.

Poofter: A poser. Not a true hasher. A civilian, and one that needs a life at that.

Run: A hash.

SCB; Short-cutting bastard. Since this ain't a race, short-cutting is 112 percent OK. Recommended even.

Shiggy: What you run through. Usually wet, muddy, toxic, bad-smelling, difficult or all of these things. A good trail has plenty of shiggy.

Tags: Your name tags. You're even your hash name by the group. After you hare a run, you get your tags, to treasure always.

The Trash: The newsletter, filled with lies, semi-lies and outright truths. Plus the calendar of upcoming runs and whom to blame them on.

Virgin. Someone who has never hashed. Also called "new boots."

Whanker: A humorless person.

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