ON THE RUN
HASHERS ARE BEER DRINKERS WHO JUST HAPPEN TO JOG
The San Jose
Thursday, September 27, 1990
By DENNIS A. CAVAGNARO, Special to Venture
described the crazy, barely-tolerated antics of the
Hong Kong chapter of "Asia's oldest and most
eccentric sports club," the Hash House Harriers.
later I found out for myself. During a visit to Hong
Kong I telephoned the group and was invited to join
one of their runs at a soon-to-be abandoned British
Army Gurkha base.
were made and running togs donned. A bugle sounded
and the group bounded off, yelling "On!
On!" We were on a mad, stop-and-go exercise that
took us on steep, off-road inclines down to sea level
and then painfully up to the crest of Hong Kong's
spiny ridge line.
Just when I
decided that I'd made a mistake, our run mercifully
ended on the base's parade field next to a well-
provisioned beer wagon.
was an hour or two of raucous, good-natured
camaraderie with song, insults and ribald humor. We
then took off in our sweaty gear to a giant communal
meal, called the "On On," at a large
I was hooked on
To this large,
international jogging fraternity, a "hash"
is an entertaining run followed by a party. The whole
affair is devised by and for a breed of irreverent
runner, the "hash house harrier" or
"hasher" for short.
The South Bay
Hash House Harriers have been running regularly
throughout Silicon Valley for over 10 years. The
group's popularity spawned the Agnews State Hash and
the Monterey Hash. Further up the peninsula are the
San Francisco City Hash and the Fog City Hash. Across
the bridge is the oldest local Hash, the East Bay/Mt.
Hashing is a
sport that travels better than golf or tennis. When a
hasher plans a business or pleasure trip, he or she
can consult a directory for other hashes along the
wonderful, unique way to meet like-minded friends in
an otherwise foreign environment. At last count, the
rapidly growing Hash House Harriers movement numbered
upward of 80,000 members in 650 locations in 126
countries. Most hashes welcome visitors to their
simple in concept but provides a variety of running
experiences. It is not a race and is designed to
accommodate the fit and the less fit.
modeled on the British sport of "Hounds and
Hares" (dogs who hunt hares are
"harriers") and may seem a little like a
combination of steeplechasing and orienteering.
Prior to each
run, one or two hashers are volunteered as
"hares." Their responsibility is to design
an interesting course and then to arrange for the
hash run will last approximately 1 1/2 hours and
generally will be circular, finishing at or near the
start. If not, transportation must be arranged.
"hares" mark the trails with bits of paper,
flour, chalk -- whatever will be visible.
Crucial to the
success of the run are five or six check points
designed to create maximum confusion. There may be
three or four possible exits from each check, perhaps
even a false trail. The trail markings will pick up
again a hundred-or-so yards away and out of sight
from the check. A false trail will last only about 25
Checks are the
key to hashing's uniqueness and popularity. They make
the run interesting, but more important, allow slower
runners to catch up to the rest of the pack. Athletic
ability is not a requirement. In a well-designed run,
the slowest runners should be able to finish
alongside the fastest runners.
runners will call out, "Are you?" Until the
trail is found, the reply will be,
"Checking." When the trail is located, the
call is "On on" and the bugle sounded,
rallying the spread-out runners to the pack.
increasing popularity is due to the principle that
running should be fun. The accent is on the social.
Joe Curray, the founder of the La Jolla Hash, calls
hashers "running beer drinkers, not the
Until a few
years ago, hashing was pretty much confined to the
British Commonwealth communities in the Far East. It
since has spread throughout the world as the hashers
-- many of whom work for the government, the military
or the professions -- are transferred.
barely tolerated in some communities since hash
trails have taken runners through churches, elegant
hotels, Nieman Marcus, and New York's Grand Central
and Penn Stations. The Harbor Patrol apprehended
members of the Orange County Hash as they were
crossing the channel at Dana Point.
In 1984 Soviet
authorities banned hash runs from Moscow streets,
saying "group jogging could lead to accidents
with serious injury to people, and such acts
interfere with the normal life of the city."
While each hash
is a private club, members are usually happy to
invite anyone who asks. Or as Phil Kirkland, late of
the Hong Kong Hash, put it:
''If you've got
half a mind to join the hash, that's all you
The San Jose Mercury News