Richmond State
July 27, 1995

I Hashed, I Drank


I Hashed, I Drank

(Wherein A Summer Intern Joins a Drinking Club With a Running Problem)

The Richmond State
July 27, 1995
By Tania Samman

The term "hashing" immediately conjures up images of mind-altering substances. However, the progressing trend of hashing brings new light to an old term

Loosely defined as "a form of cross-country running," hashing combines two very popular activities among adults: jogging and drinking beer. Yes, it's hard to believe, and when invited to run a hash with the Richmond Hash House Harriers, who-could refuse? I went on my first undercover assignment, ready to see what all the commotion was about.

After an engaging and entertaining phone call with a fervent Richmond Hasher, Matt Kingsley, I soon learned some very interesting details about hashing and what I could expect on my first hash run. Hashing is vastly growing all over the country and internationally. There are hash hotlines you can call if you are traveling and want to visit a local hash, and an internet address where people from all over the world can have a megabyte forum.

The stories got stranger – I learned about a Red Dress Hash taking place in Washington, D.C., that weekend, where hashers from all over the country donned red dresses and ran about the streets. And then there was the debate about whether a slinky dress or a frock would be more appropriate. I was intrigued, inspired, and agreed to run a hash.

And so oh a balmy Sunday afternoon recently, I pulled over in front of the softball field by The Diamond, where a few cars had already congregated. This was indeed a special occasion, the Richmond group's 69th Hash, and runners from Virginia Beach and D.C. had traveled to help celebrate.

Hashers run with Hash nicknames, all of which have interesting connotations. Few hashers know their fellow runners' real names.

After a few runs with their group, hashers will be renamed. The first hasher I met was Bubbles, a Navy Seal from Tidewater. Big Bird introduced himself, and between beer sips gave well-needed advice about running my first hash.

"Run with the pack—let the FRBs [front running bastards] do all the work," he said.

I was introduced to all as "the virgin," in honor of my first run, which made my breath catch in my throat the first few times, but then that didn't even seem strange. And soon I was welcomed into the hashing community, everyone introducing themselves and telling me about the glorious sport that brought them together.

And standing around with Oral Retentive and Fuzzy Butt and Cold Cuts and all the others, I did get the sense that this was a family. They were a close-knit group, warm and funny with all their eccentricity. Of the 15 or so, runners that were there, society was adequately represented. Dedicated hashers include lawyers, doctors, high school students, cashiers—anyone with a "thirst for running."

The group talked and laughed about the infamous Red Dress Run in D.C. and about the greetings they received from the crowd as they jogged down the streets of Georgetown. The gay and lesbian supporters hung their flags and waved their support, older couples flicked off the runners and grumbled. All hashers agreed that it was a spectacular success.

And then it was time, time to embark on a run of my own. The run was set up as a riddle almost. Whether it was a "Live Trail" or a pre-set one, a designated "hare" ran ahead and set a trail, using flour and recognized marks to lead the rest of the pack. However, there were tricks and traps; false trails were set, forcing the people out in front to return to the last checkpoint and run on a different trail.

This was what everyone meant when they advised me to run with the pack—the Front Running Bastards found the trails and yelled back different codes to let the rest of the runners know where to run. Competition is discouraged unless it involves chugging beer; rather, hashers work together with different energy levels to find the end of the trail.

"On-On" is the trademark slogan of hashing; it means that the front runners are on the right trail. The hashers all had temporary "On-On" tattoos and "0n-0n" bumper stickers, one dedicated hasher even had an ON-ON license plate.

The warm-up took place, and this display nearly had me running back to my car, shrieking (with laughter). The group went into a highly involved rendition of "Old Father Abraham" on the field in front of the traffic, singing boisterously and doing exercises and stretches with the words. The hashers then took off, some running with their goblets, anticipating the beverages at the end of the trail. One man ran with his portable urinal, his own goblet. If this was the opening ceremony, I couldn't wait to see the closing.

We ran and walked on the streets. Going one way, turning around and heading another, running under fences and down the main streets of Richmond, searching the pavement for tell-tale flour markers and shouting "On-On" back to the pack. There was a flash of irony as we ran past the "Alcoholic Beverage Control" building.

I walked with Fuzzy Butt and heard about hashing all over the world. At one stage, Cold Cuts ran back to make sure we were on the right path. A few condoms accompanied the flour markings, and I wondered what people on the street were thinking as they passed the energetic group.

The hash concluded about 40 minutes later in Bryan Park. Everyone ran in, enthusiastic and excited, chatting about the hash and the trails. One man's goblet was hanging from a kiwi-embroidered holder which he purchased on an international hash in New Zealand involving 4,000 hashers. And evidently that's not surprising

Hashing is a popular activity all over the world. A D.C. hasher gave me his business card in case I ever want to run a hash up there—the card says, "The White House Hash House Harriers: THE DRINKING CLUB WITH THE RUNNING PROBLEM."

The closing ceremonies began, hosted by this week's hare. The different hash groups were individually invited to stand in the center of the group. Each had to sing a song and then, to the choruses of "down, down, down, down," sang by the observers, they chugged a beer. But once your lips leave the glass, you have to wear what you don't drink. There were plenty of songs and plenty of laughs.

To my complete humiliation, "the virgin" was called out into the circle, where a form of initiation takes place. They sang songs, made suggestive comments, and, yes, they made me chug. Then there were "down-downs," where people drink for particular reasons, such as wearing new running shoes or running in front the whole time.

The last group of runners to finish, "The Shoppers" had to chug, and then other runners had to chug for being out-chugged both by a virgin and a woman! It was crazy. It was unlike anything I'd ever heard of and I loved it. Dinner was laid out, sandwiches and cold cuts, and more beer was brought out in coolers. But alas, it was time for me to go home.

I had experienced what some call "the world's best kept secret." Not only a novel form of entertainment, hashing imparts a local knowledge of appreciation for the city and area. The trails take place in parks and fields as well as on the streets.

Hashing actually began in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur by British soldiers. The exact history is probably a few different stories melded into this one—the soldiers used to run to "Harry's Hash House." Hashing is based on a British childhood game of "Fox and Hares," and the soldiers set trails through rubber plantations and swamps to get to their hash house. The house owner, Harry, sometimes met them on trail with beer and refreshments, which began the tradition of beer checkpoints and the "down-downs" at the end of the trail.

And so I left the hashers, my new friends, and returned home with a slight beer buzz, a healthy ache, a slew of songs running through my head, and great memories. I am returning, bringing my brave editor and curious friends in tow. What more can I say? Let the hashing begin!

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