Hashing Around the World

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ah, hashing... by which, of course, I mean "participating in a run with the Hash House Harriers", so drag your minds out of the gutter. I am lucky/crazy enough to count myself a member of the Winnipeg Hash House Harriers, one of hundreds of similar chapters of the worldwide "drinking club with a running problem". Here I will borrow from Wikipedia, which has a quite excellent and exhaustive entry on the whole business, well worth a visit.

Hashing began in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1938, when a casual group of British colonial officials and ex-pats would meet after work on Monday evenings to run through the environs of Kuala Lumpur, to get rid of the excesses of the previous weekend. They took the name "Hash House Harriers" because as bachelors they were billeted in a club known locally as the Hash House due to its monotonous food.

Their runs were patterned after the traditional British paper chase. A hare was given a head start to blaze a trail, marking his way with shreds of paper, all the while pursued by a shouting pack of "harriers." Only the hare knew where he was going...the harriers followed his clues to stay on trail. Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare and solving the clues, reaching the end was its own reward...for there these thirsty harriers would find a tub of iced beer.

Hashing died out during World War II after the Japanese invasion of Malaysia, but started again shortly after the war. However, it didn't really take off until 1962, when the phenomenon started to grow, spreading through the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as Europe and North America. Hashing experienced a large growth in popularity during the mid-1970s.

By the end of the 20th century, there were thousands of Hash House Harrier clubs in all parts of the world, with newsletters, directories, and even regional and world hashing conventions.

I'm particularly fond of the philosophy of the original Hash House Harriers, quoted here from a 1950 KL city club registration card:

  • To promote physical fitness among our members
  • To get rid of weekend hangovers
  • To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
  • To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
It's probably not a good idea for me to go into the minutiae of hashing here - the arbitrary and bizarre "rules", the funny nicknames, the politically incorrect songs... let's just say it's loads of fun to get together for a completely unstressful run, a cold beer (or six), and a round of silly songs once a week. I've made some new friends, grown closer to others I already knew, and generally had a great time.

But what, you ask, does this all have to do with traveling around the world? Good question. As I mentioned in paragraph one, this is a WORLD-WIDE organization. In fact, it's likely that there are Hashes in every major city on my itinerary. Lots of really big cities have more than one group, with each one running on a different night of the week. What this means is that I can hook up with hashers and go for a group run basically everywhere I go. In fact it's quite common for traveling hashers to contact the group in the city or cities they're visiting, and for them to run and drink with these local hashers. Also, hashing seems to be a predominantly English-speaking practice. So it's not just that I'll be in contact with a group of local runners, I'll also be in contact with a friendly bunch of English speakers with lots of local knowledge and predisposition to accept me as one of the gang. I think this could prove to be both useful and very very fun.

On On to the World!


Mitch said...

But that doesn't even look like you!!!!

ClearlyEnlight, said...

I walked with a hash group in Cairo with the guy I couch-surfed with, it was a lot of fun.

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