Hash House Harriers - In a nut shell
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The Hash House Harriers (abbreviated to HHH, H3, or referred to simply as Hashing) is an international group of non-competitive running, social clubs. An event organized by a club is known as a Hash or Hash Run, with participants calling themselves Hashers or Hares and Hounds.
Hashing originated in December 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, then in the Federated Malay States (now Malaysia), when a group of British colonial officers and expatriates began meeting on Monday evenings to run, in a fashion patterned after the traditional British Paper Chase or "Hare and Hounds", to rid themselves of the excesses of the previous weekend. The original members included, Albert Stephen (A.S.) Ignatius "G" Gispert, Cecil Lee, Frederick "Horse" Thomson, Ronald "Torch" Bennett and John Woodrow. A. S. Gispert suggested the name "Hash House Harriers" after the Selangor Club Annex, where several of the original hashers happend to live, known as the "Hash House" where they also dined.
After the end of World War II in an attempt to organize the city of Kuala Lumpur, they were informed by the Registrar of Societies that as a "group," they would require a Constitution. Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare and finding the trail, harriers reaching the end of the trail would partake of beer, ginger beer and cigarettes.
The objectives of the Hash House Harriers as recorded on the club registration card dated 1950:
- To promote physical fitness among our members
- To get rid of weekend hangovers
- To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it with beer
- To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
Hashing died out during World War II shortly after the invasion of Malaya, but was re-started in 1946 after the war by several of the original group, minus A. S. Gispert, who was killed on 11 February 1942 in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, an event commemorated by many chapters by an annual Gispert Memorial Run.
The second hash group to form was by Gus Mackey on the Italian Riviera, named the Bordighera H3. In 1962, Ian Cumming founded the third chapter in Singapore. The idea eventually spread through the Far East and the South Pacific, Europe, North America, and rapidly expanding during the mid-1970s.
At present, there are almost two thousand chapters in all parts of the world, with members distributing newsletters, directories, and magazines and organizing regional and world Hashing events. As of 2003, there are even two organized chapters operating in Antarctica.
Most chapters gather on a weekly or monthly basis, though some events occur sporadically, e.g., February 29th, Friday the 13th, Typhoon 'T8' or a full moon.
At a Hash, one or more members ("Hares") lay a trail, which is then followed by the remainder of the group (the "Pack" or "Hounds"). The trail periodically ends at a "check" and the pack must find where it begins again; often the trail includes false trails, short cuts, dead ends, back checks and splits. These features are designed to keep the pack together despite differences in fitness level or running speed, as front-runners are forced to slow down to find the "true" trail, allowing stragglers to catch up.
Members often describe their group as "a drinking club with a running problem," indicating that the social element of an event is as important, if not more so, than any athleticism involved. Beer remains an integral part of a Hash, though the balance between running and drinking differs between chapters, with some groups placing more focus on socialising and others on running.
Generally, Hash events are open to the public and require no reservation or membership, but some may require a small fee, referred to as "hashcash", to cover the costs incurred, such as food or drink.
The end of a trail is an opportunity to socialise, have a drink and observe any traditions of the individual chapter (see Traditions). When the Hash officially ends, many members may continue socialising at an "On-After", "On-Down", "On-On-On", "Apres", or "Hash Bash", an event held at a nearby house, pub, or restaurant.
In addition to regularly scheduled Hashes, a chapter may also organize other events or themed runs.
A common special event is the "Red Dress Run", and is held annually by individual chapters. According to hasher lore, a newcomer in San Diego was invited to a hash; unbeknownst to her it was a running group, and she attended the run in a red dress instead of running clothes. After being mocked for wearing such an outfit she ran the trail anyway. Other hashers began wearing red dresses as a joke and the tradition soon became an annual event that spread across the world. The point of the run is that all participants (both sexes) don red dresses of various sorts. The Red Dress Run is typically the largest event organized by a chapter in a given year, with attendance topping 2,000 in San Diego, and 600 in Washington, D.C.. The largest Red Dress Run event is currently in New Orleans, with approximately 8,000-10,000 participants in 2010.
Most chapters count the number of runs it has organized and uses round figures - run no. 100, 200, 777, 1000 etc. - as an opportunity for arranging a weekend with several runs and nightly celebrations.
- Hash House Bikers (Bike hashes or Bashes) follow normal hashing traditions with the hare and pack riding bicycles.
- River Hashes or Snorkel Hashes (Rashes, Splashes, or Snatches) follow normal hashing traditions, but take place in an aquatic environment with participants using snorkels, fins, kayaks, floats, and other rafts.
- Hash-A-Thon, Tour-duh-Hash and Tri-Hash-Thon are special "Competitive" events. Hash-a-Thons involve multiple trails (normally 4) in 24 hour period totaling up to 26.2 miles(a marathon). Tour-duh-Hash is 7 days of hashing.
- Tri-Hash-Thon is an event consisting of 3 trails, 1 running, 1 swimming/snorkeling/river float, and 1 biking(bash).
- Family hashes welcome children (sometimes called Hash House Horrors or Ankle Biters) with soft drinks replacing alcoholic beverages and drinking songs toned down appropriately.
- Pick Up Hashes - Hashes that follow traditional hashing guidelines minus the pre-selection of a hare. At a pick up hash, the hare is decided randomly at the beginning of the event.
Hashing has not strayed far from its roots in Kuala Lumpur. The hare(s) mark their trail with paper, chalk, sawdust, or coloured flour, depending on the environment and weather.
Special marks may be used to indicate a false trail, a backtrack, a shortcut, or a turn. The most commonly used mark is a "Check", indicating that hashers will have to search in any direction to find the continuation of the trail. Trails may contain a "Beer Check", where the pack stops to consume beer, water, or snacks, allowing any stragglers to catch up to the group.
Trails may pass through any sort of terrain and hashers may run through back alleyways, residential areas, city streets, forests, swamps, deep mud ("shiggy") or shopping malls and may climb fences, ford streams, explore storm drains or scale cliffs in their pursuit of the hare.
Signals and Terms
Hashers often carry horns or whistles to communicate with each other, in addition to verbal communication. Every Hash House employs its own set of trail marks and the names for these marks may vary widely, so newcomers or visitors will have the local markings explained to them before the run at a "Chalk Talk". The most common term is "On-On," shouted by runners to let others know they are on the right trail.
There are two types of trails. "Live Trails" are laid by hares who are given a head start, while "Dead Trails" are pre-laid hours or days before the Hash begins. Live trails and dead trails are also known as "Live Hare" and "Dead Hare" trails, respectively. Live trails are closer to the original "Hare and Hound" tradition, with the intent of the pack being to catch the hare rather than making it to the end, and are more common in the United States, while the rest of the world tends toward dead trails.
A trail may be "A to A," where the trail returns to the start, or "A to B," where the beginning and end of the trail are widely separated. Some trails are referred to as "A to A1 (prime)", denoting an ending point that is close to (usually short walking distance), but not the same as the start. There is also "B to A" which the participants are ferried to another location for the run back to the gathering point.
Most hash events end with a group gathering known as the "Circle", or less commonly as "Religion". Led by chapter leadership, the Circle provides a time to socialize, sing drinking songs, recognize individuals, formally name members, or inform the group of pertinent news or upcoming events. Circles may be led by the Chapter Grandmaster, the group's Religious Adviser, or by a committee.
A "down-down" is a means of punishing, rewarding, or merely recognizing an individual for any action or behaviour according to the customs or whims of the group. Generally, the individual in question is asked to consume without pause the contents of his or her drinking vessel or risk pouring the remaining contents on his or her head. Individuals may be recognized for outstanding service, or for their status as a visitor or newcomer. Down-Downs also serve as punishment for misdemeanours real, imagined, or blatantly made up. Such transgressions may include: failing to stop at the beer check, pointing with a finger, or the use of real names. Commonly, hashers who wear new shoes to an event can be required to drink from that shoe.
Many chapters include an ice seat or throne as part of the down-down ceremony. Those who are to consume a down-down sit on a large block of ice while they await the completion of the down-down song. If the offence that resulted in the down-down is particularly egregious, the hasher may be subjected to a long song with many verses.
In most chapters, the use of real names during an event is discouraged. Members are typically given a "hash name," usually in deference to a particularly notorious escapade, a personality trait, or their physical appearance. In some chapters the name must be earned - that is, hashers are not named until they've done something outstanding, unusual, or stupid enough to warrant a name. In other chapters the process is more mechanical and hashers are named after completing a certain number of events (5-10 being the most common).
Some chapters focus on "family-friendly" names (for example: Lost My Way); others focus on names filled with innuendo (for example: Salt Lick); and some go out of their way to make the name as bawdy, offensive, or politically incorrect as possible.
Those hashers who have not been named are generally referred to as "Just (Name)", "No Name (Name)" (e.g., "No Name John") or "No Fucking Hash Name John" (NFHN John).
Hashers are not permitted to give themselves nicknames due to the obvious conflict of interest. Hashers who do so are often renamed by the chapter at the earliest opportunity and with a more offensive name. Similarly, hashers who do get named and don't like their name may end up being renamed by their chapter, the members of whom may strive to give the complaining hasher an even more offensive or inappropriate name.
The traditional symbol of hashing is the outline of a human foot, often including the phrase "On-On".