Hashing it Out
Bored runners, terminal jocks, bawdy
blokes, pranksters and other social misfits latch on
to hashing for a goof time.
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
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
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
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
rechristenedwith 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
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
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
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
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
Full Moon: A hash held once a month at the date
and tune of the full moon. Yes, this is usually late
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
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
Whanker: A humorless person.