South Hams Hash Harriers
In Kuala Lumpur in 1938, a few Brits were drinking in a Chinese bar cum restaurant affectionately known as the Hash House. The group lamented the fact that they took very little exercise and proposed that one of their number lay a paper trail which the others would follow at a run. The Chinese proprietor of the “Hash House” overheard this conversation and suggested that if they were serious, he could be at the end of the paper trail with lots of ice cold beer, which they would then clearly need. The run followed by beer was a great success and was repeated on a weekly basis. They called themselves the Hash House Harriers. This formula was copied by expats living throughout the tropics and then by ex-expats throughout the world. Now there are “Hashes” just about everywhere, including here in the South Hams.
The basic ethos of running followed by beer drinking has not changed – indeed it is often said that hashing is for “drinkers with a running problem”. Over the years, various practices and conventions have evolved. Hashing is not competitive – it is a friendly way of taking exercise in the open air – followed by friendliness of a convivial nature. Hashers take it in turn to be the hare; that is to lay the trail before a run. In the UK, trails are generally laid with eco-friendly blobs of flour with the occasional “check” in the form of a circle. Trails following a check will not be obvious and will include false trails ended by a big X. The idea is that the faster runners will follow the false trails with the correct trail found by the time the slower runners arrive. When the correct trail is found, a hasher calls out “On on”. A well laid trail keeps the pack more or less together. In the South Hams, we also have long/short splits. The short options lead to a run of about 3 miles with the longs typically 5 or 6 miles.
Although hashing is available to anybody just by turning up at the start of a run, some Hash conventions sound a bit masonic. A Grand Master presides over the “Mismanagement Committee” which plans the various hash events. The Religious Advisor (RA) keeps hashers on the righteous hashing path and awards “down downs” after a run to those who’ve merited a free beer or to punish those who have behaved in an unhashlike way, e.g., by being competitive. A down down usually involves drinking half a pint of beer in a single swallow. When a hasher has been to a few runs he or she is “named”, hopefully wittily, by the RA – within the hash he/she is only known by that name from then on. Hashers generally don’t know the non-hash names of their hashing friends! The South Hams Hash runs on a Wednesday evening, starting at 7.30pm somewhere in the South Hams, most usually from a pub. We run throughout the year regardless of weather or daylight/darkness. We are about 50/50 male/female with ages from teens to 70s. To join us just turn up! You can see the diary of runs at the website.
First published March/April 2013 By The Dart