The Washington Post
September 12, 1998

Raciest Racers Come to Paint The Town Red

Raciest Racers Come to Paint The Town Red

The Washington Post
September 12, 1998; Page D03

By Jim Hage Special to The Washington Post Saturday

Five hundred runners in red dresses -- the Hash House Harriers from chapters up and down the East Coast -- arrive in Washington today for the fifth Red Dress Run at 3 p.m. "It's hashing at its finest -- or lowest," said Eric Hodgson, a veteran hasher and software engineer from Reston. Hashing began 60 years ago when British army officers encouraged soldiers to run to purge toxins after a weekend of alcoholic overindulgence. Today, however, the therapeutic origins of hashing have devolved into a drinking party that is five miles long.

There are an estimated 900 chapters and 100,000 hashers worldwide. Buses loaded with Red Dress runners from New York City and Virginia Beach already have arrived for this weekend's festivities. Known as "Drinkers with a Running Problem," Hash House Harriers congregate regularly to run, often traipsing from bar to bar. The runners adopt hash names, most too ribald to print. "Politically correct we're not," Hodgson admits. But today's Red Dress Run is something different altogether. The hashers will meet at Lulu's New Orleans Cafe at 22nd and M streets NW, then will follow a trail laid out in the road with flour. Dress -- red, that is – is definitely not optional.

After the pre-run party, which starts at 1:30 p.m., the hashers will run, stop for "refreshment," run again and even ride the subway to the next bar. A race it is not. While men outnumber women in most hashing chapters, today's event is coed. Bill Singleton, a Washington stockbroker closing in on his 1,000th hash run, said, "It was virtually inconceivable that women would want to participate 20 years ago." The red dress tradition dates from 1986, when a woman in a red dress allegedly joined a group of runners for post-run drinks and hot- tubbing.

Fact or fantasy, a tradition was born and continues today through the streets of Washington. Beware.

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