An Introduction to Hashing
What’s it all about ?
Hashing, or Hash Running as some call it, is a unique blend of socializing and exercise. A Hash is rather like a paper-chase, generally held out of town in open countryside, where ‘Hares’ lay a paper trail (or more frequently, a trail marked by blobs of flour) and a bunch of runners or walkers (the Hounds) try to follow the trail. It’s NOT a race and it IS meant for everyone, young and old, fit and unfit to join in. After the run, everyone gathers to celebrate the run with a few beers, food and sometimes, a spot of singing. Hashers like to let their hair down and some might think them a bit boisterous (a warning for those of a sensitive nature !), but its generally harmless fun and a great way of getting rid of the frustrations of the week. Hashes are often referred to as ‘drinking clubs with a running problem’ but in fact you don’t have to drink (or even run) if you don’t want to, although a sense of humour is pretty useful
Who We Are
Runners with a drinking problem or Drinkers with a Running problem. We never could decide which came first!
The history of Hash House Harriers is well documented and a web search will turn up a lot of weird and wonderful Hash History. The basic idea has its roots in the ancient game of ‘hare and hounds’ one of the recorded earliest examples of which was the "Crick Run" at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England in 1837. The game was turned into an adult sport in 1867 by a group of oarsmen who wanted to stay fit during the winter. It became popular the following year when the Thames Hare and Hounds started running on Wimbledon Common. Early clubs called themselves "Hare and Hounds" or simply "Harriers." It is widely believed that term ‘Hashing’ first emerged in 1938 when an Englishman called Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert gathered a group of expatriates, including Cecil Lee, "Horse" Thomson and "Torch" Bennett, to form a club in Kuala Lumpur to run along the lines of the ‘Hare’ and Hounds’ . The club’s name derived from the Selangor Club Chambers, which due to its lackluster food was commonly referred to as the "Hash House," this when combined with the traditional term “Harriers” used by running clubs, led to Hash House Harriers or “HHH”. The early tradition of Hashing was interrupted by the advent of World War II, but then re-established when peace returned. Hashes gradually sprung up all over the world, starting in SE Asia and spreading west with travellers and expatriates. Today there are over 1,300 Hashes worldwide, but Kuala Lumpur HHH is always referred to as ‘Mother Hash’: the place where it all started.
Hashes have widely differing characters. Some are men-only runs, others (like those in Bangalore) are mixed hashes which also welcome families and children. Some Hashes are held at weekends, whilst other are held during weekday evenings. Its oft said that in places like Hong Kong and Singapore its possible to run with a different Hash on every day of the week !
The relative emphasis of the running bit versus the drinking bit varies from Hash to Hash. Some HHH clubs are city based, others use ‘live’ Hares who run only a few minutes ahead of the pack and hope not to get caught. Most Hares are less adventurous and lay the trail well before the Hounds set off, sometime even the previous day. The art of a good trail is to entice the leading runners off on false trails so that the slower runners and walkers can catch up. It’s very much NOT a race and competitive running is normally frowned upon.
If the Hares have done their job well, everyone should arrive back at the hash site within 15 minutes or so of each other, the front runners having run further and faster than the short-cutting walkers. After a short break while everyone cools down and refreshes themselves with a drink (of whatever kind takes their fancy) the hash circle reforms and the fun begins. As a rule (and there are many and varied hash rules, most of which are made up on the spur of the moment), the hares are invited into the centre of the circle and the hash shows their appreciation by cheering them on while the down a drink.
Being sociable sorts, the hash then invites newcomers to introduce themselves and enjoy some refreshment and the hash circle then celebrates the deeds or misdeeds of individual hashers (this typically might include any examples of competitive running, excessive off-trail shortcutting, or generally acting like unfaithful hounds).
After a short while, the circle breaks up and the hares serve hash food. This can vary enormously from snacks such as curry puffs and samosas, to cream cake or a full on meal if it’s a brunchtime run.
Have a go!
Hashing is alive an well in India with clubs in all the major cities and there is one Hash right here in Bangalore; the original Bangalore HHH runs every month on a Sunday afternoon, although there occasionally have been Sunday morning ‘brunch’ runs and outstation events during which there are a number of runs/walks over a weekend.
Everyone is welcome at a Hash and there are Hounds of all ages, from children of around 8 to folk in their 60’s and 70’s. All you have to do is turn up and be prepared to join in.
If you want to have a go then you need to contact the respective Hash (details are on their websites) for ‘Hash Directions’, which as the name suggests, are a set of instructions to guide you to the run site at the appointed time. Once there, everyone forms a circle and the Hares will brief the Hounds on the run. They will give an idea of the general format of the run, the length, whether there are special trails for Walkers and Runners, and any notable hazards or guidance. As a rule, there is a modest run fee (typically Rs 200) which covers costs of admin and overheads including drinking water. Wear whatever you would for jogging or a gym session, and a spare set of clothing and footwear in case you get muddy or it rains. A towel is useful, and so is bug spray. It’s a great way to exercise, have fun and see a bit more of India. Enjoy !