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Date : 18th November, 2016
Time : 1h 03’ 58”
Total distance run to date : 930 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1458667814
Hash House Harriers often describe themselves as a drinking club with a running problem. An apt description from which you’ll gather that both running and socialising are big parts of hashing. A mix that generates huge enthusiasm and loyalty from tens of thousands of hashers across the world.
Having said that, from what I’ve seen, the balance between running, socialising and other activities varies on a club by club basis. One hasher I ran with (who’ll remain anonymous) described his local club, in disapproving tones, as an “Eating club without much of a running problem”. (And I imagine that somewhere in the world, perhaps Amsterdam, there is a hash club with more of a munchies problem than a running problem.)
Hash clubs and their runs are very different from normal running clubs. 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”). Sawdust, flour, chalk, and toilet paper are used to mark the trail. The trail periodically ends at a “check” and the pack must find where it begins again; the trail often includes false trails, short cuts, dead ends, back checks, and splits. These features are designed to keep the pack together despite differences in fitness levels or running speed.
In most chapters, the use of real names during an event is discouraged. Members are typically given a “hash name” with some chapters focussing on “family-friendly” names and others focussing on names filled with innuendo. And some / many go out of their way to make the names as bawdy or offensive as possible. And while the post run socialising involves plenty of alcohol – particularly beer – there are also hash songs, ceremonies and ‘punishments’ (down downs).
Now, as hashing involves:
a) Copious amounts of drinking;
b) Silly names; and
c) Romping around in the great outdoors
it may not come as a great surprise to hear that it originated amongst a group of British expats (in 1938 in Malaysia).
Their earliest recorded objectives were to :
- 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
Hashing has subsequently spread well beyond the expat world and you’ll find a great mix of locals and nationalities from all around the world at hash clubs. Spread to the extent that its estimated that there are about 2000 chapters around the world. They’re open to everyone and, at least in my experience, they’re extremely welcoming to outsiders.
The chapter in Accra, the capital of Ghana, has an offshoot group that goes for a run (and a few beers) on a Thursday evening. However, Josh (I’ll spare him his hash name) and the rest of the group – above – agreed to meet me on a Friday run. Which was very good of them.
It was part standard urban run and part hash run with cries of “On On” and whistle blowing. And also circling round by the stronger runners to allow the others to catch up.
Encouraging as many people to run as possible is very much part of the ethos of Run the World and I wish I could tell you that I joined in the circle backs. However, it was my third run in 36 hours, and 6th run in just over 4 days, and I was too knackered to take part in anything that would mean me running more than the allotted 10km.
In fact, I’m grateful to all the hashers who’s company got me to the end of the 10km. With perhaps a special mention for Patrick who had to slow down considerably from his usual pace to keep me company over the last few post nightfall kilometres after we got separated from the rest of the pack.
After a ‘how do I get from the changing room to the outdoor shower cubicle’ moment and a quick no lights, no towel shower, we all headed off to the local Goethe Institute for bratwurst and beers. Not very Ghanaian but very hash.
Thank you Josh, Patrick, Jose and everyone else for the run and the beers. Great fun!