For hashers, beer tastes best after running. Meet the social runners who drink for their health.
When first hearing about the Hash House Harriers, Hash for short, most people stare in disbelief; yet most agree that it is a fantastic idea and wish they had known about it before. Combining good healthy exercise with good healthy beer (hey, carbs and hydration are essential when exercising) seems like a match in heaven. Add in camaraderie, cultural exchanges, new locale exploration, and you have the recipe for a great outing.
So what is the Hash exactly? Nicknamed ‘the drinking club with a running problem’, the Hash started in 1938 in Malaysia by a group of expatriates needing to balance their weekend drinking with some exercise. Founder Gispert suggested the game of Hares and Hounds, where runners try to catch the ‘hare’ who is laying a trail of paper with a few minutes’ head start. Forced to register, their constitution read: 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.
Not much has changed since then.
A typical Kansai run goes like this: a designated hare will go out and set a trail from a train station, marking the course with flour and chalk. Later, the pack convenes and sets off on the trail, not knowing where they will go, although runs are usually A to A. Will they climb a mountain, dash through historical temples, cross rivers and/or mingle with crowds of picnickers? Nobody but the hare knows.
Along the course the hare will lay a number of checks, where the trail could go in any direction, to slow down the faster members and allow the pack to regroup. After
a 5-10km run/jog/walk/crawl, the pack (hopefully!) safely gets to the finish, where snacks and refreshments await. As Ghost Ride Her (members get a moniker after a few runs), an American marine who founded the Fallujah H3 (“Where every run is a blast”), mentions: “You don’t have to run the trail, but it will get you to the beer faster”
A few moments after the last member arrives, the pack circles up and a member of the mismanagement committee officiates a little ceremony to honor, with a serving of beer, the hare and other members for deeds that occurred both on and off trail. Typical offenses include being a Hash virgin, wearing new shoes, racing (it’s not a competition), funny comments and so on. As you can deduce, seriousness is not a prerequisite. After the circle, most members head to a nearby izakaya for more libations. Hiragana, a retired dentist from Kobe, philosophically adds: ‘People love to drink, get together and communicate. That is very essential’.
The club is open to everyone with a sense of humor regardless of their fitness level or social standing. As Snow White, a British ex-pat working as an architect in Tokyo, points out, “Everyone, from a waitress to a CEO, looks the same in running shorts”. From artists to retired airline executives, through Kansai Scene writers (cough, cough), the Hash is an activity enjoyed by people of all nationalities and paths of life. Walkers and ultra-marathoners join the club around the world, so fitness is not an issue. All that is needed is training wear, optional post-run wear and ¥500–700 for the run, which includes the refreshments at the end. The izakaya cost is separate.
With four kennels in Kansai, you are bound to find the right time and place to join your first run. Call up some friends and join in the fun. On-On!
The Kinky Fully Mooned H3 will celebrate its 300th run on March 20th • www.ne.jp/asahi/kfmh3/kfmh3 (with links to other groups)