Off Duty (Pacific Edition)
By Eric Minton
One thing is clear about the
running that Hash House Harriers engage in: it is not
"Jogging is boring, and
only boring people do it, proclaims Gordon
"Prof" Williams, who runs with the
Bicester, England, Hash House Harriers.
Well, if it's not jogging, what
is it? Briefly, hashing is one runner laying a trail
for a pack of other runners to follow. Yet, it is not
simply cross-country running or even orienteering.
"Hashing is far more than a mere sport--it
becomes a way of life, a religion almost," says
Indeed, the word
"sport" is frowned upon in H3 circles, for
camaraderie, not running, is the key element in
hashing: getting together at bars and noodle shops in
Asia, where hashing originated, at cafes and bistros
in Europe, at pubs in England, at pizzerias and
7-Elevens in America. Most hash runs start at a
drinking hole and inevitably end at a drinking
hole--and sometimes there are stops at drinking holes
along the way.
In other words, hashing is a
social event, first and foremost. "We have fun
and don't really care all that much about other
things," wrote "Mr. Spock," the editor
of InterHASHional News, a publication for hashmen and
"Hashing is the most fun
you'll ever have standing up," says Clay
"Slippery Seaman" Kelley, a
forty-four-year-old Chief Warrant Officer who works
in the Pentagon. He even got married while hashing.
For some insight, we offer a
list of "Hash Hints" Williams printed in
his Bicester H3 newsletter, "Guide for New Feet
& Virgin Hares."
(Hash Hint: Hashing is totally
non-competitive, although someone has to be first. If
by some fluke you manage to find yourself in this
unfortunate position, Yell "ON! ON!" until
you are exhausted enough to fall back to your
rightful place in the pack. These calls are not
designed to help you but the poor unfortunate at the
rear who can then short cut (Hash Tactical) back to
A runner called a hare maps out
a trail marked by blobs of flour, chalk or sawdust
(the latter is more effective on frosty ground or
snow). The hares can choose terrain as easy or as
difficult as they wish---rugged, rural, urban or
suburban. If there is any rule in marking trail it
would be "If there's a prevalence of mud, use
Kelley, Clay's wife, says that once, in Atlanta, she
ran through a tunnel with foot-high water. "A
black hole for 10 minutes," she says. "It
twisted so you couldn't see the end; you're groping
along the wall with your hand to see where you
A series of hashes in
Philadelphia wound through downtown, through the zoo,
across a railroad trestle, up the steps to the Museum
of Art, through a stream that covered the runners'
shirts with a slimy black substance that didn't wash
out. "I guess we do some bizarre things for
fun," Mrs. Kelley admits.
Every 500 or so yards, the hare
chalks a line across the trail to mark its
end---called a check---then starts another trail
about 150 feet away.
( HASH HINT: If it is your
misfortune to arrive first at a check, don't sit down
and rest, or stand about like a wet weed, but look
for the new trail and shout "Checking!"
loudly and often. If you find an X, announce
"False Trail!" equally loudly.)
The hare will sometimes lay
false trails in addition to the real one. These false
trails shouldn't extend further than three marks, and
end with an X.
Hash runs usually cover four to
seven miles and last 60 to 90 minutes, but the recap
of the run, with refreshments, can go on considerably
(HASH HINT: The social pack
retains it superiority by deployment of its greater
intelligence. Short-cutting from the rear---hash
tacticals---is encouraged and united pack is far
better for warding of f homicidal landowners and
Rottweilers, as well as forcing the (bartender's) arm
if you arrive back at the pub early.)
Judy "Coach" Rusk, a
travel agent in San Diego, was asked in 1986 to
arrange a Thailand trip for the San Diego Hash. She
went along and, after visiting various Hashes, ran
her first in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the birthplace
of hashing. "It was awful," she says.
"We went through muck, a rubber tree plantation
where it had rained, and it was slippery and all
uphill. That got me Started."
Rusk, now fifty-five years old,
ran with the San Diego Hash for a few years and was
one of the founders of the all-women's San Diego
Mission Harriettes. What could possibly have enticed
her about that first hash?
"Afterwards, we joined
about 200 people sitting around in a restaurant with
fantastic food where tourists never go and I got to
meet people from all walks of life and nationality. I
just found that so fascinating."
(HASH HINT: Short-cutting from
the front is not allowed---one of the very few firm
rules of hashing--and could result in the whole Hash
straying on to uncleared land.)
"without permission" from the landowner.
Kelley tells of a run with the Mt. Vernon Hash when a
resident called 911 after seeing somebody throwing
white stuff on the road and guys running around
"The police came out and
asked what we were doing," says Kelley. "We
Some hares pre-lay a trail, but
when a live trail is used, the hare get only a
15-minute head start. If the pack catches the hare,
tradition calls for stripping them of their shorts,
though some Hashes forego that one.
"It doesn't get
vulgar," says Kelley, who claims he's
"caught a handful" of hares.
"Sometimes they wear two pairs of shorts."
(HASH HINT: Move at your own
pace. Ignore the FRBs -front running bastards- and
jockstraps who urge you to go faster. If you should
fall behind, try a Hash Tactical. If your tactic
succeeds, you may be accused by a jealous FRB of
being an SCB -short cutting bastard. Just ignore it;
such accusations merely confirm your superior
Hashing is not for the prim. No
matter where the hash is run, or the language spoken,
all hashers seem to know the same, rowdy "body
songs," Mrs. Kelley says.
And while hashing erases
racial, ethnic, age and national barriers, the line
between sexes remains. It can be an intimidating,
chauvinistic experience for women. A women has to
have good self -esteem," Mrs. Kelley says.
"She has to have a good sense of humor,
For women who might feel
intimidated by a pack of men running around singing
rude songs and shouting "ON! ON!" there are
all-female hashes. Rusk's group allows men to run,
buts its one rule is that women have to be at the
front of the pack, and only women can solve the
check--that is, verify whether a trail is false or
Just about everyone in the hash
has a nickname, most of which have some anatomical or
sexually explicit origin. "People always ask me,
'How did you get a name you could tell your
mother?'" says "Coach" Rusk. She's not
sure, but she didn't have any say-so in the matter.
The objective of most nicknames seems to be to call
attention to something its owner would rather forget.
(HASH HINT: "Always try to
keep at least one hasher between you and anything
which looks at all fierce, such as bull terriers,
geese and pigs."
In Japan, Kelley, as the hare,
laid what he considers his trickiest trail---straight
through a town, ending with a sign to go straight
back, Consequently, he had to return along the same
route. When he saw the pack coming his way, he ducked
into a store. The woman merchant saw the this man,
out of breath from running, covered in flour, hiding
from a bunch of running, shouting men. "She knew
they were looking for me," he says. "She
Hashing began with a group of
British Army men stationed in Malaysia before World
War II. They took up trail-chasing through the
jungles near Kuala Lumpur, after-ward gathering for
some imbibing at the Selangor Club, known locally as
the Hash House. The activity resumed after World War
II, and as more British and Australian troops took
part, it spread, particularly in Asia. It isn't known
when the American Hash was formed, but it likely was
in the late '70s or early '80s, when U.S. military
people got involved and began spreading the word.
[Ed: OFF DUTY first published an article about the
hash in 1973.]
Today there are hundreds of
U.S. military Hash groups active all around the
Every even-number year, hashers
from all over the world get together for the
The 1994 meet was held in
Rotorua, New Zealand, in February. The 1996 Interhash
will be held in Cyprus.
(HASH HINT: "If you wish
to know what the hell is going on up front, call 'How
are you?' which should evoke the response 'Checking!'
'False Trail!' Off chalk!!' or even 'Lost!'
While stationed in Germany, the
Kelleys visited Prague shortly after the Iron Curtain
came down, and they saw flour on the road.
"Can't be!" they said to each other. They
soon saw a pack of runners wearing Czechoslovakain
Hash T-shirts. We shouted 'ON!! ON!' and they shouted
'ON! ON!'" Kelley says.
"You can be in the most
godforsaken place in Asia, and there will be
hashers," says Rusk. "No matter where you
go in the world you have friends."
"Bernard Mills" (his
hash name)' a marine stationed at El Toro MCAS,
California, was sent to Saudi Arabia during the Gulf
War. He made contact on the telephone with British
hashmen. "They said, 'We'll meet you at
such-and-such coordinates and they gave me the
number, and I went and waited for them. It was just a
spot out in the sand. They came driving up from out
of nowhere, and we went running together. It really
seemed weird." Saudi Arabia being dry, however,
they had to forgo the customary post-hash libations.
"If the run doesn't draw
blood, people will say it wasn't a fun run,"
says Mrs. Kelley. She began hashing in 1986 shortly
after moving to Columbia, South Carolina, when she
read a notice for "this thing about
runners" in a newspaper.
"It sounded kind of
interesting so I showed up," she says. "It
was horrible for me. We went through a lot of sand
and bridges and a swamp. I'm a road-runner, and here
are these people running in the craziest places---and
She was hooked. "The
camaraderie and the spirit of it all," she says.
"It's just nice to meet people that way,"
including her future husband on that first hash.
The Kelleys married two years
later---twice. Both ceremonies were hash weddings.
For the first, in Columbia, Karla wore her mother's
wedding dress---in addition to her running
outfit---and Clay had on a vest and boutonniere. They
ran through the city, took a trolley to the starting
point and had the ceremony.
Later, in a Charleston hash,
the ceremony came halfway through the run. "We
stopped, had the ceremony, and they had a formal line
we ran underneath while they threw rice and champagne
on us," Clay says. "Then they handcuffed us
together. We still had three miles to run.