The Ukrainian
September 1, 1997

On The Run

On The Run

The Ukrainian
1997:4 (Autumn)
Author: Unknown

In a world where many people enjoy running as a form of relaxation, but many more enjoy a drink, a select group referring to themselves as "drinkers with a running problem" have combined both pleasures in a semi-organised manner: the Hash Harriers. A strange name derived from combining: harrier, old English for runner or harrier; hash, a Malay word for food sold by roadside vendors; ore, another Malay word for alcohol. How did two apparently opposite pastimes become united under such a polyglot title?

Malaysia, August 1938, Captain Gispert of the Fourth Seaforth Highlanders decided that his Glaswegian troops awaiting combat and renowned for their capacity for alcohol, were getting badly out of shape in this corner of the British Empire. Accordingly he decreed that the regiment would do a weekly five-mile run. To prevent cheating, the route was to be changed each week, soldiers having to follow a specially marked trail laid only a few minutes in advance. The best-laid plans...

Local Malaysian entrepreneurs realised they were onto a good thing and before long had set up stalls at the end of the route, selling ore and hash to the thirsty troops, if anything adding to the general unfitness. Bored soldiers distorted the Malay words, ore becoming whore, hash becoming house, and were soon referred to as the Whorehouse Harriers.

British sensibilities eventually reverted the name to Hash House Harriers, but the tradition of a day dedicated to running and drinking was firmly established: there were 117 separate runs before the war intervened, and a second Hash formed in 1946.. In Singapore, 1962, the tradition was revived by civilians and Hashes began to catch on world wide. Today there are some

4,000 Hashes around the globe. Inter Hash, the next international meeting , will be held in Kuala Lumpur, October 1998. Scheduled to last for three days, it could well go on for a fortnight.

The Kiev Connection

The Kiev Hash was formed on May 1st, 1994, by Christina Den Dulk (Netherlands), Kirsten Olssen (Sweden), Colin Eborall (United Kingdom) and Evelyn Matthieu (Belgium). Evelyn, who left Kyiv this August, was the longest-standing member, having taken part in 70 out of 86 Hashes. The Kiev Hash Harriers run every second Sunday, regardless of bad weather, temperature or holidays, meeting outside the Hotel Salit (Arsenalna Metro) at 2 pm in the Summer and 1 pm in the Winter: typical attendance is in the thirties, with more on special events. Over the years, some 800 different people have run with the Hash. Regular sponsors are Heineken, Coca-Cola and Reebok, and the Hash (aside from its drinking duties) raises funds for local charities and orphanages.

Hashes world wide share a number of light hearted traditions which baffle the uninitiated, regardless of nationality. The committee is headed by the Grand Master or Grand Mattress (Current Grand Mattress of Kiev being Australian Helen Davidson) and dedicated members are usually given a Hash name - examples from Kiev being "Hash Hammock", "The Plumber" and "Factory Mistake". If you want to find out more about how Hash members earned such names, about 'secret' Hash drinking songs and gestures (see box [Swing Low...]), initiation ceremonies or the role of committee members with titles like "Hash Horn" or "Hash Flash", go along and get involved. And if your Sunday afternoon stroll is interrupted by a group of sweating enthusiasts following a trail of flour or ribbons and shouting incomprehensible things like "Checking!", "On On!", and "Are You?", you will know it was the hash.

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