home      my running story      races from the beginning      talk to me       product reviews      

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Hash House Harriers - The Drinking Club With the Running Problem

“Are you?” The call comes through the trees some distance away. “On one!” I shout back and continue running and scrutinising the path for blobs of flour.  No – this isn’t my latest baking disaster or warning that I’m in a bad mood. I’m on a hash. Not ON hash, but A hash. A Hare-and-Hounds trail has been laid and I’m following it with 8 others, all at different speeds and with various energies but all out for a good old trot around the countryside with the promise of beer. Oh yes, there’s beer. 

A lot of my runs over the last year have been targeted and precise with specific goals and paces. Gels to eat at certain points, a certain speed to maintain, chips on shoes and GPS on wrist. I like knowing what my targets are, but sometimes being so precise can take the joy out of the running.

Which is why I’ve been running with Spa H3. I haven’t left Northbrook AC, but I have joined another club. But not a running club. A drinking club. With a running problem. 

It’s not a secret society, in fact it’s the largest running club in the world with chapters in many different countries. However, in common with secret societies it has its own language, code names and secret markings. It’s a bit like being a secret agent but tracking down blobs of flour and beer rather than fingerprints and spies. 

An example of a HHH marking ...

I’d first heard about hashing in Running With The Kenyans, the book by Adharanand Finn. It sounded relaxed (beer) and sociable (beer) which had made me get onto Google and search for a local chapter to run (drink beer) with. When the search results came back I was astounded at the number of different chapters around, how had I not heard about these before or even seen them? Louise of Abradypus had stumbled over a hash in progress in London and was invited along although she’s since been keeping quiet about whether she went back again and about whether she’d been given a Hash Name. (More about this later)

I’d emailed and was invited along to a run. I didn’t know what to expect. The runs start and end at a pub and I’d turned up early and seen two men dash off dropping flour as they went. It wasn’t an off-the-cuff version of Great British Bake off with another runner expected with the eggs and sugar, but a live hash meaning that the hares were laying the trail as they ran and we’d all be following the trail and trying to catch them. Basically the runs always follow a Hare and Hounds style format. A trail is laid and the hounds all follow it.  

When you see this, you know you're nearly there!
The trail is laid with blobs of flour – easy to see and easy to remove – but there are usually plenty of false trails to give the faster runners a good run around. Walkers are welcome and if the trail has been laid well then by the time the runners have investigated all the false trails, the walkers may well be some way in front.

Out on a run it’s not uncommon to hear hashers refer to“shiggy” (‘rural’ mud!), “FRBs” (Fast Running Bastards), “Down downs” (Chugging your beer) amongst others and there are a host of special signs - usually marked out in flour. Oh and each member has their own hash name. Usually an offensive name. Oh and there are songs. Drinking songs. It does sound rather like a secret society. But there’s more drinking and running than I’d usually associate with a secret society. It’s not very secret. You just find the largest bar tab and trace it back. 

And there’s Circle Time. This is where the punishments get handed out. Did you take a shortcut? Didn’t shout out loud enough? ‘Foul The Trail’? Well then, you’ll be handed a cup and told to ‘Down, down’. 

You can't trust a H3 around a kids playground. They just HAVE to have a go on the slide ...
Sound childish? It is. And it’s massive fun. But it's not new. Although it's based loosely on Hare & Hounds, the first Hash House Harriers chapter was started in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in a restaurant (Hash House) by an Englishman called A. S. Gispert  He decided he and his friends needed some exercise to go along with all the eating. And although famously the runs nowadays 'have no rules' (although don't believe that or you'll be drinking beer fines!), the original rules of the Hash House Harriers (source) were:

    (a) to promote physical fitness amongst its members
    (b) to get rid of weekend hangovers
    (c) to acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it with beer
    (d) to persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel

And it's all gone from there, from running off a hangover to becoming the largest running club in the world. There are approximately 2000 clubs running in almost every country in the world (source) and if you ever fancy an informal, non-competitive run around your local area check out your local H3 here. I can promise you'll have lots of fun. 

But be sure to bring your Hash Cash and to drink your Down Downs like a good hasher. 


  1. This sounds amazing! I want to go! But I'm scared of going on my own, can you come to London and take me please? I'm good at drinking beer. Less good at running.

    1. Sounds a brilliant plan! I'd love to do a bit more H3 tourism! Have a look for local ones and we'll pay them a visit!