Providence Journal Bulletin
December 25, 1996

They Make You Run For Your Beer

They make you run for your beer

The Providence Journal Bulletin
December 15,1996
Sports Section, Page C5
By Tom Meade, Journal-Bulletin Sports Writer

Hash House Harriers have gotten a strong foothold in R.I.

The Hash House Harriers say theirs is a drinking club with a running problem.

Rhode Island has two club chapters, or "Hashes," the younger one in Newport, where there are a lot of serious runners.

"Because we have so many athletes, we take pride in a good run, but we still have fun," says Karen Murphy, whose Hash handle is Mouth Full – all Harriers and Harriettes have handles.

Founded in 1986 in the northern part of the state, the Rhode Island Hash House Harriers celebrated their 550th run last week. Beery, bawdy and blasphemous, the Rhode Island group is trying to loosen up the Newporters, says Bill Matsinger, the group's spiritual leader, whose handle is Basket Boom Boom. The Rhode Island group's real leader is Jake, a yellow Labrador retriever. The Rhode Island Harriers takes pride in it's beer and singing.

A Hash runs every week: Newport generally is out on Sunday, starting at 2 p.m., and the Rhode Island Hash usually starts each Monday at 6:30 p.m. Directions for getting to the start of a Hash generally are available on the Internet; reviews of past run's are there, too.

Flying Booger, one of the Web's leading authorities on hashing, quotes the group's original charter on the goals of the Hash:

  • Promote physical fitness.
  • Get rid of weekend hangovers.
  • Acquire a good thirst and satisfy it with beer.
  • Persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel.

Modeled on the old English schoolboy game of hares-and-hounds, a run is set by a "hare," who marks the trail with flour or lime. He also stashes beer along the way. The hounds are supposed to follow the trail, according to another Internet author, because:

  • They don't know any better.
  • There might be beer along the way.
  • There might be beer at the end.

Sometimes, the hare sets false trails to confuse the hounds and to keep them from getting to the suds too soon. At the first stop of Rhode Island's 550th run last week, Basket Boom Boom, the hare, stashed spiked, mulled cider to warm the hounds as they paused to sing dirty ditties.

The hounds' running ability ranges from world-class to asthmatic. In a pack, they work cooperatively. When the lead hounds find a hare's mark they shout "On-On!" At a "check," where the trail branches and the hare may have gone in any direction, strike hounds scout the possibilities while those in the back of the pack yell "Are you?" as in "Are you on the trail?" At a check, most of the hounds slow down to catch their breath. When a hound finds

three hare marks in a row, he knows he's on the trail and yells "On-On!" Sometinmes the slowest hounds lead the pack because they are the first to find the hare's trail at a check.

The Rhode Island Hash generally runs through woods. With flashlights on dark winter nights. On the edges of highways. Through swamps and muck they call "shiggy." On their 550th Hash last week, they sank up to their crotches in shiggy covered by skim-ice. During the Christmas Hash Sunday, a group of Harriers and Harriettes from Boston lost the trail and found themselves in a Burrillville backyard with some gentlemen carrying shotguns, who notified the hounds that they were trespassing on private property.

Hash House Harriers have run through cities, jungles, sewer pipes and shopping malls.

Founded in the 1930's in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, Hash House Harriers have spread around the world.

For the Rhode Island Christmas Hash, runners from several countries represented Hashes in Boston, Hartford and Newport.

Skinkle came to Rhode Island for the Christmas run, having just completed the Red Dress, a huge charity event in which more than 500 Hash House Harriers ran in red dresses. The Rhode Island Hash is planning a similar event for Mother's Day; Basket Boom Boom says he already hash his outfit selected. It's a sexy strapless number with matching pumps.

At the end of each run, the hounds gather in a circle for more singing and the "down-down," a ceremony in which the hare must down a bedpan full of beer in one swallow; what he cannot drink he must pour over his head. The same goes for visitors and those new to the Hash.

"Every Hash has it's own charachter," says Cindy Duerr, a Rhode Island Harriette who has an X-rated handle. "Some are family-oriented, some are serious about their running, and some are more about parties and beer."

To learn about when and where the Rhode Island Hash House Harriers are running, call the answering machine at 401-568-3157; for information about the Newport Hash, call the answering machine at 401-841-0467.

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