May 1, 1987

Games Runners Play

Games Runners Play

Women's Sports and Fitness
May 1987, pp 70
By Jacqueline Cohen

“I just completed a race around the world!” wrote a friend in a recent letter mailed from her military post in Antarctica. The course was in a two-mile area surrounding the South Pole. It was one of the hundreds devised by the Hash House Harriers (H3), a worldwide running organization.

But you don't have to go to the ends of the earth to join a hash, an off-beat race for runners who like to have fun. There are 50 clubs in the United States alone, as well as 520 organizations in 84 other countries.

The four-mile-plus, cross-country has courses exist in suburban developments and office parks, wilderness areas, farms, and wineries. In Third World countries, trails wind through rice fields, wheat fields, and farmers' mud-hut villages. Elsewhere they may run through department stores, over trolley lines, and around temples. In Tokyo, within blocks of skyscrapers, they run on quiet, tree-lined neighborhood streets. Outside Taipei they traverse old Chinese cemeteries, and in Moscow one crosses Red Square.

Here's how it works. Before the run, a “hare” marks the trail with small pieces of rice, flour, or shredded paper. When the trail reached a checkpoint (the junction of two piles together), it can go in more than one direction. The “hounds” scatter in search of the right trail, marked by one pike of rice.

“Are you?” shouts the hare at the checkpoint.

“Checking,” reply the ambitious hounds.

“Are you?” urges the hare.

“On, on!” exclaims the excited hound who has found the correct trail. The discovery may be heralded by trumpets, bugles, flutes, and other noise-makers.

Most recreational pursuits begin for pleasure and become serious. Hash began with serious intentions and deteriorated into pure pleasure. Exercise is only a small part of the purpose; fun, fellowship, food, and refreshment are the emphases. Physical conditioning helps, but is not a prerequisite.

Has began in 1938 when an Englishman stationed in Malaysia, A.S. Gispert, began jogging on Monday nights to sweat off the excesses of the preceding weekend. His run always ended with food and beer at a small restaurant called The Hash House. A few friends joined him, and the group began to arrange running routes through the Malaysian countryside. The Hash House's proprietor followed them with refreshments. More friends joined, and the run evolved into a variation of the British game of Hare and Hounds.

Each club has its own special atmosphere. Explains Sue Wickham, “hash cash” (treasurer) of the Ventura, California H3; “We're called the `tea party hash” because we're tame.” The runners bring their children and spouses baby-sit, while older children may accompany the runners.

In contrast, the Rumson, New Jersey group calls itself the Hell's Angles of Hashing, practicing the old “down-down” tradition. This ritual initiates newcomers by requiring them to quaff a mug of beer without spilling a drop.

The Atlanta H3 club members are fond of serving each other nicknames. Responsible adults leading mundane lives during the week become Rag Bag, Two Trip, Loophole, and Brewhilda on their Saturday outings.

The Washington, D.C. Hash House Harriets was started by a woman who was unwelcome in the all-male Hash House Harriers. Originally a women-only group, it is now 60 percent men, since the members found that segregation didn't lend itself to socialization, a major hash purpose. “Now our Grand Mistress is male,” said former mistress Carol Patch.

The social appeal engenders near-fanaticism about weekly runs. Members may postpone business meetings so as not to miss a run, and they are known to plan trips to coincide with hashes in other cities.

Major annual events entice enthusiastic hares and hounds. Atlanta, Georgia is still recovering from the Inter-Americas Hash of 1985. Pattya Beach, Thailand, hosted the World Inter-Hash , March 28 to 31, 1986. In November 1985, 160 hashers from all over converged in Nepal to set a record, the highest hash in the world.

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