Tampa Bay Hash
St Petersburgh Times
May 21, 1999
By: Babita Persaud
On a Saturday afternoon in a shady office complex
off 56th Street, a grown man a draftsman for the city
of Tampa drinks beer from his running shoe.
The heel of his chunky Air Jordans is wedged in
his mouth. His head is tilted back. His friends, all
part of his running group, crowd around him, cheering
"Down! Down! Down!'' they yell.
If the shoes were old, the man, Richard Rivera,
wouldn't have to drink from them.
But they are new and among these runners, that
simply is not allowed.
They are hashers of the Tampa Bay Hash House
Harriers, or HHH for short. It's a different kind of
running group, one where nature is the course, not
some indoor track, and where drinking beer is allowed
before, during (at pit stops) and after a run.
"We're a drinking group with a running
problem,'' explains Steve Jensen, a longtime hasher.
But it would be wrong to presume that the keg
propped up in the pickup truck is the only thing they
Hashers also share a belief that running has
veered from its roots.
That it is no longer recreation.
That it is more about the 5K and 10K and marathons
you've run. And the color-coordinated outfits and new
shoes you have.
So in hashing, no new shoes! Or you drink from
No matching outfits.
No marathon pins or T-shirts.
No saying the R-word (race).
No pointing, because that simply is rude. Hashers
use their elbows when signifying direction.
Also, no spilling beer. "That offends the
hash god,'' says Jensen.
When drinking during initiation ceremonies, remove
ball caps or other headgear and kneel. Show respect.
And for heaven's sake, have a sense of humor.
"Laugh a little,'' says Dianne Reeger.
Running can be a social activity. It can be fun. +
The trail can go anywhere, through thick palmetto
scrubs, through subdivisions, along highways, over
walls, across the Hillsborough River, into malls.
Hashers meet every other weekend, rain or shine,
at different spots: Temple Terrace, Bayshore,
Carrollwood, Hyde Park. Occasionally they meet during
full moons. On Valentine's Day, hashers run in red
dresses. Even the men.
Hashing is a worldwide phenomenon, started in 1938
by a British businessman who was living in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia. A.S. Gispert had a penchant for
Hare and Hounds, a children's game in which the
"hare'' is pursued by a pack of shouting
The hare is given a head start and shreds paper
along the way. The hounds, also called harriers, try
to catch him. Gispert organized such games with other
expatriates, meeting at the Selangor Club, which was
commonly referred to as "hash house'' because of
its lackluster food.
Hashing spread around the globe, usually through
the military. (Gispert was a captain in the
reserves.) Today, hashing groups are everywhere:
Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Chile, India, Greece,
Egypt. Greater Beirut hashers meet every Saturday
either in the city or countryside. San Diego hashers
meet every night.
Every odd year, hashers in North, South and
Central America congregate for the InterAmerican
Hash. Every even year, a worldwide meet is held. Last
year's was in Malaysia and marked the 60th
anniversary of hashing.
Orlando hasher Dan Hellriegel was there.
"It was great,'' he says. Nearly 6,000 people
came. Hashes were held every other day. Busloads were
driven out to the starting points. At night, hashers
partied in a stadium.
"It was my first time out of the country,''
says Hellriegel, 33.
Next year, he's off to a hash in Tasmania. + + +
Gainesville has a hashing group, and so do Key
West and Palm Beach. Orlando has several, including
the Bikeo Psychos, who ride, run and drink.
Tampa Bay has three:
+ St. Pete Hash House Harriers.
+ P.M.S. Hash House Harriers ("P'' standing
for Port Tampa, "M+' for MacDill Air Force Base,
"S'' for south Tampa).
+ Tampa Bay HHH, the largest, oldest and most
active. It was started in 1988 by a couple and their
two friends. Today, the harrier pack can exceed 50.
Everyone pays $5 per hash, which covers the beer
before the run.
In this crowd are a graphic artist, an Army
veteran, a nurse at Moffitt Cancer Center, a social
worker, a manager at International Paper, a
schoolteacher who pleads not to have her name in the
paper. She doesn't want the headache. "I know a
parent out there will complain because a teacher had
a beer,'' she says.
They range in age from college to 40-somethings.
Some are singles. Others are married, like Nancy and
Ken Lloyd, who on May 25, 1991, had a wedding hash.
She wore a white lace T-back and running bra. He wore
a tuxedo T-shirt and shorts. Vows were exchanged
halfway. The presiding justice of the peace was a
"We have the neatest wedding pictures,'' says
No one here goes by birth names, and that's just
how they like it. Everyone goes by his or her hashing
name, bestowed by the pack after a prying
interrogation of their personal life. So you have One
Night Stand and Uranus and Box Packer (the
International Paper guy) and Candy Wrapper, whose
boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend) was named Candy.
The names can be R-rated, which didn't sit too
well with one hasher several years ago. She told the
pack she didn't want a "vile, disgusting, dirty
name'' because she wanted to be able to tell her
family the name without embarrassment, or else, she
told the pack, "I'll never come again.''
And so, that's what they named her: I'll Never
Needless to say, she didn't. + +
Before the hash can begin, there must be a
blessing. A circle forms around the hares, John
Maltempo and Mike Answeeney. Hands unite. Heads bow.
Answeeney leads: "For this trail we are about
to receive may we be truly thankful.
"Copus no catch us.
"Dogus no bite us.
"Redneckus don't shoot us.
"Trail be true. Trail be short.
"Beer be near.''
The hares shout the traditional "On! On!''
before setting off on their 15-minute head start.
The trail is laid with flour and chalk markings
every few yards. The pack blows whistles to
communicate. Not everyone in the pack is in hot
pursuit of the hares. There are also
"walkie-talkies,'' stragglers who chitchat.
"I hate running,'' says Cassandra Nelson, one
walkie-talkie. "But I love socializing.''
Trails are generally 3 to 6 miles, with one or two
refueling spots along the way. The pickup with the
keg appears, or the stop could be a bar.
Today's trail snakes through tree-lined
neighborhoods in Temple Terrace, past Meadow Wood
golf course, across the Hillsborough River, where one
hasher goes the full monty, putting his clothes back
on after getting to the other side.
At a lawn party, the hashers stop to pose for a
picture with the birthday girl. At a neighborhood
playground, they take a swing.
A serious runner, in matching outfit, passes them.
"Join us,'' a hasher shouts.
But the runner ignores them and heads off in the
opposite direction. + +
Is hashing good for you?
Dr. Stephen Glasser, professor of internal
medicine and director of clinical pharmacology at the
University of South Florida, wouldn't recommend it.
Generally, alcohol has adverse affects on the body,
including increasing heart rate and impairing the
body's ability to function, Glasser says. It is not a
time for physical exertion.
An unapparent heart problem could complicate
matters, he said.
The hashers have no doubt that there are benefits.
"Hashing is psychologically fit,'' says
"To me, it gives all these people, after a
week of work, a way to let loose,'' says Henry
"BN'' is marked in blue chalk on the sidewalk
near an apartment complex.
"Beer Near!'' says one walkie-talkie.
The pickup truck with the keg can be seen around
Soon, the ceremonies, called "Down-Down,''
begin. Be ready for lots of singing with the
drinking. Most songs are variations of old British
rugby tunes, such as True Blue.
"She's true blue. Hey! She's a hasher,
through and through.''
Other are familiar, such as this ditty sung to The
"Hashers / Meet the hashers / We're the
biggest drunks in history / From the town of Tampa /
We're the leaders in debauchery . . .''
Hashing traditions and songs differ from city to
city. In Atlanta, new members have to sit on a block
of ice with their pants down. In the Bahamas,
"butt chugs''drinking beer slid down a woman's
backis the thing.
The Tampa crowd is more subtle, requiring hashers
to kneel during initiation or penalty ceremonies.
"Virgins! We need virgins up front,'' says
the hare, calling newcomers.
Mike Matthews, 27, strolls to the center of the
circle. He heard about hashing from a runner in a
road race recently and gave the hot line number(813)
"This is running like I've never known it.
This is drinking like I've never known it,'' says
Matthews, plastic mug in hand.
Next ritual on the agenda: Naming Julie, a new
The pack surrounds her.
What do you do for a living?
What's your favorite food?
Poor Julie. The questions come too fast for her to
Do you have any hidden talent?
What are your hobbies?
After the grilling, Julie is scooted away to the
other end of the parking lot.
The pack huddles, brainstorming on names. Ten
minutes later, they call Julie back.
"From now on and forever more,'' says
ceremony leader Jensen, "you will be known as .
. . Open Wide.''
The pack breaks into laughter. And so does Julie.
AT: alcohol$ running
CR: COLOR PHOTO, SAMANTHA DUNSCOMBE,
CU: Greg Popp, holding a golf club he found along
the road, is about to enter the Hillsborough River
behind Eileen Hill, who holds her shoes on one hand
and her cup in the other. (ran Pg. 1T)
CU: Robert Lewis and his fiancee, Cassandra
Nelson, pass the halfway mark of the hash. They were
to get their hash names after running the race.