By Dakota Parks for Downtown Crowd
Knee-high socks, plaid kilt skirts, vests covered in patches, handmade necklaces that double as name tags, and beers in hand: this is what a pre-lube looks like with the running group, the Hash House Harriers. The pre-lube is just the start of the debauchery— the warm-up before the run. The Hash House Harriers were formed nearly 80 years ago in prewar Malaysia by a group of British colonial officers looking for a way to run off their hangovers, promote physical fitness, quench their thirst for beer, and keep their older members feeling young. Now, hashing, as it is called by members, has thousands of chapters, or kennels, stretching across all seven continents.
Downtown Crowd sent me out to get the scoop first-hand by going on trail with the local hashers. Despite running with a torn ligament in my knee, I was met with an outflux of support as members even stopped to help me hurdle a lowlying wire fence. What I did not expect to discover in this group was a tight knit family that spans coast to coast, worldwide. The local kennels in Pensacola are Survivor H3 and East Hill H3, while Siete Cerveza H3 and Emerald Coast H3 are based out of Fort Walton.
“Hashing is a combination of two different things. It’s a British game, ‘Hare and Hounds,’ and that’s the reverse tag game where the hare is hiding and you have to find them. Then, there’s the Malaysian side of it: ‘paper chase,’ where one person goes out and creates a running trail with little bits of paper or toilet paper and the others have to find them. They’ve basically combined the two of those games into what is now known as hashing,” said “One Two” age 26 from Siete Cerveza and Emerald Coast.
At every trail, a hare leads the way leaving clues like chalk marks or dashes of flour along the trail for the group of hounds, or runners to find. However, it’s not as simple as a game of tag or even a scavenger hunt—there are false trails, backchecks, song checks, mid-run beer checks and most importantly: the hare always lies. Trails can vary in complexity, length, and terrain. Survivor H3, for example, loves a “shiggy trail,” the rough terrain with mud, briars, and unkempt trails.
“Length of the trail depends if it’s in the shiggy, a pavement pounder, a pub crawl, or a ball buster (half marathon). As a general courtesy, they will let you know ahead of time if it’s going to be a long trail. That’s part of the inclusivity of hashing: no one gets left behind. Survivor has trails between 3 and 5 miles, but the average trail is about 2.5 miles,” said “Poppins” age 50 from Survivor. Traveling is a big part of hashing. Members travel across the globe to meet new people and hash with new kennels. Social media has made it even easier to meet new hashers and kennels. “I’ve hashed in Germany, Brussels, Korea, Okinawa, Florida, New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio, but realistically that’s not even a lot of places. There are groups that only travel-hash. Different kennels have wildly different trails. When I was in Korea, we hopped on the train, went 13 miles outside the city and literally ran through rice paddies all the way back,” said “One Two.”
While members cross kennel lines and even travel to hash with new kennels, they all have a “mother kennel,” which is either the kennel where a hasher first runs and/ or is given a “hash name” by. Hash names are often raunchy, hilarious and tell a story through the name. Once a member runs enough trails to make an impression on their kennel, they are named.
“Hash names are a way to remain anonymous and really emerge into our community. There’s a lot of potential for people with different occupations and backgrounds to get involved. If you have high military clearance or a career that would disagree with our debauchery and shenanigans, hash names keep you private. There are some hashers that I have no idea what their real names are,” said Liz, age 37, Grand Master of Survivor H3. F
rom landscapers to doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers and a large population of military members, the members of Hash House Harriers come from diverse backgrounds. Despite the median ages of 25 to 45, members can be as young as 21 with some hashers running trails into their 70s. Members come together to support each other, drink beer and raise money for charity.
“That’s my favorite thing about hashing. No matter what’s going on, or what event is being hosted, it’s never for profit. Every excess penny goes to charity. So, you get to run around like a hooligan, drink, share laughs with this community of people, and know that you’re still doing the world good,” said “Nun & Dun” age 26 from Siete Cerveza.
One of the most famous international Hash House Harrier events is the Red Dress Run. The run originated in San Diego in 1987 and quickly spread to major cities like New Orleans, Beijing, Montreal, Ho Chi Minh City, Helsinki, Moscow and Tokyo. As the event grew, some cities opened them up to the general public and not just hashers. Quite possibly the largest event worldwide, The New Orleans Red Dress Run to date has raised close to $2.5 million for over 100 different charities.
Red Dress is just one event where hashers raise money for charity. The local kennel, Survivor raises money at a variety of fundraisers. In 2017, Survivor donated their largest amount ever raised at $9,000 to Arc Gateway in Pensacola. They’ve also donated to My Father’s Arrow and Favor House in the past. They just recently made an early donation to the Pensacola Humane Society in December 2019 to replenish their low food supplies.
Whether you’re a beer drinker or completely sober, a runner or an avid walker, a competitive athlete or an average Joe, hashing is an all-inclusive community. The only way to find out if hashing is a fit for you is to bite the bullet and hash a trail. To find out more about upcoming events and local kennels, visit gotothehash.net or look up the local kennels by name on Facebook.