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
Hashers run with Hash
nicknames, all of which have interesting
connotations. Few hashers know their fellow runners'
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
packlet 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, cashiersanyone 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
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
This was what everyone meant
when they advised me to run with the packthe
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
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
therethe card says, "The White House Hash
House Harriers: THE DRINKING CLUB WITH THE RUNNING
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
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
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 onethe 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!