Grenada Hash House Harriers
We sail in Prickly Bay Grenada sometime in mid-October and a week later we hear about an organized event that involves hiking in the island’s countryside and drinking beer. We are in. Even though we don’t really know exactly what this ‘Hash House Harriers” thing is about.
The Hash House Harriers is an international group of non-competitive running social clubs which organized events are known as a ‘hash’ or ‘hash run’, and the participants are called ‘hashers’ or ‘hares and hounds’, after the British tradition of chasing hares with hounds.
Hashing originated in December 1938 in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, when a group of British colonial officers and expatriates began meeting on Monday evenings to run in order to sober up after a weekend of overdrinking. The Hash founders wanted a sport which involved some energetic physical activity that would not get in the way of their beer drinking routines. Thus, they decided to go for a run and have a drink at the end of the run.
One of the original members suggested the name „Hash House Harriers“ after an establishment in Kuala Lumpur, where several of the original hashers lived and dined, known as the „Hash House“.
The objectives of the Hash House Harriers as recorded on their club registration card dated 1950 are:
1. To promote physical fitness among our members
2. To get rid of weekend hangovers
3. To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
4. To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
It’s Saturday afternoon and we pile up on a van together with a bunch of other cruisers from our anchorage to go to the place of this week’s Hash. It turns out we are on our way to an event of epic proportions.
After the Second World War the idea of Hashing spread through the Far East and the South Pacific, then Europe, and North America, and rapidly expanding during the 1970s.
Today, there are almost two thousand chapters in all parts of the world, in over 110 countries, with organized regional and world Hashing events. As of 2003, there are even two Hash House Harriers chapters operating in Antarctica.
Hashing has its rules, customs and traditions. Hashers have hash names, mostly ego-bruising or revealing personal shortcomings or peccadillos.
In Grenada, the Hash House Harriers club was found in 1985 by Paul “Rigor Mortis” Slinger. Since then the group has been running, waking and drinking regularly, almost every week for 30 years. The Hash meets every Saturday afternoon in a different part of the island. It is composed typically of between 50 to 370 assorted runners and walkers of all ages, shapes and sizes. There are mothers with children, locals and visitors.
We get to the old rum factory. There are hundreds of people, some are very athletic looking, others are just normal people like us. Hash events everywhere are open to the public and require no reservation or membership, just a small fee, referred to as „hashcash“, to cover the costs for the organization, couple of dollars per person. This week’s hash is huge with hundreds of participants, as it is the 850th Grenada Hash.
Most chapters count the number of runs they have organized and use round figures – run no. 100, 200, 850, 1000, etc. – as an opportunity for arranging a special celebration.
After a short orientation and explanation of the rules and after all new shoes are inaugurated by making their owners drinking hot beer from them, everyone starts running and walking, following a trail of shredded paper.
We all get separated. Ivo is a Hare together with Mel and they disappear in the very beginning somewhere in front of the big crowd. Maya starts running and ends up alone with Tyler, her 9-year-old friend from S/V Four Coconuts. I end up walking fast and running from time to time with a pack of stranger-hounds through beautiful green countryside, shady forested hills, across small rivers, and down a wide road- places I would never get to visit if not for this hash.
Historically, hash trails have pass through any sort of terrain and hashers have run through back alleyways, residential areas, city streets, forests, swamps, deep mud or shopping malls, climbed fences, explored storm drains or scaled cliffs following a trail of shredded paper, sawdust, flour, chalk or toilet paper, without knowing where exactly they are going. The trail periodically ends at a „check“ and the pack must find where it begins again. Often the trail includes false trails, shortcuts, dead ends, back checks, and splits. These are designed to keep the pack together despite differences in fitness level or running speed, as front-runners are forced to slow down or go back and forth to find the „true“ trail, allowing stragglers to catch up.
For me not knowing where I am, where we are all going and for how long, is the most thrilling part. Just follow piles of shredded paper, keep an eye on the people in front, and don’t get lost until you reach the end. Which in this case is the old rum factory where the hash begun two hours ago. As we start to arrive one by one or in groups, all sweaty, dehydrated, tired and hot at the end of the day, we find the stands with cold drinks and loads of beer waiting for us on the loan. Loud music is playing, hashers are chilling. The second and most important part of the event is on: the beer-drinking and partying part which continue well into the night.
The Hashers often describe their group as „a drinking club with a running problem,“ as the social element of the hashes is even more important than the athleticism involved. Beer remains an integral part of each hash. The ultimate goal of most hashers at the end of the day is to consume large quantities of beer and undo all the good that this running and walking has done to them.
A couple of weeks after the 850th Grenada Hash we sign up for yet another one of these addictive hashes. It’s October 31st and the hash this week is very special.
In addition to regularly scheduled hashes, a chapter may also organize other events or themed runs.
The most famous special event is the „Red Dress Run“, which is held annually by individual chapters. It all started in 1987 when a young lady by the name of Donna Rhinehart, wearing a red dress emerged from an airplane that had landed in southern California to visit a friend from her high school years. Shortly thereafter, she found herself transported to Long Beach, where her friend intended to introduce her to a zany running group called the Hash House Harriers. One member, noting her gender and attire, urged that she “just wait in the truck” until her host returned. With that goading, she ran into history sporting her red dress and heels.
The following year (August 12, 1988), to commemorate the event, the San Diego Hash House Harriers sent “The Lady In Red” an airline ticket to attend the inaugural Red Dress Run. Hundreds of male and female hashers adorned themselves in red dresses for a spectacle widely covered by California newspapers and TV news.
The tradition of the Hash House Harriers Red Dress Run quickly spread to every corner of the globe, including Beijing, Montreal, Ho Chi Minh City, Helsinki, Moscow, Tokyo, Washington, DC, Hobart and countless other locations and is held each year. Just put on your best red dress and join the run!
Another fun variation of a hash is the Disaster Hash. A disaster hash is basically an impromptu hash that can be called by any hash member whenever a disaster occurs. The disaster can be anywhere in the world and can range from an earthquake to a flat tire. The disaster hash is a bit different from a normal hash. The hare is chosen on the spot, given flour to mark the trail, a destination, and a one minute head start. Whoever catches the hare, becomes the hare. They take the flour and continue along to the destination, this repeats as many times as the hare is caught.
There are also international hashes (InterHash) held in a different part of the world every two years. The next one is going to be in 2016 in Bali, Indonesia.
But this week’s hash in Grenada is not a Red Dress Run, nor a Disaster Hash.
It’s a Halloween Hash
October 31, 2014 Halloween night in St George’s Granada. Something horrific is about to happen…
Some terrible looking creatures have gathered in the shadow of the Sails Restaurant in the center of the city.
Creatures scary, dangerous, crazy, and undead, wearing running shoos, smelling of old bones and beer.
They have a ceremony, a witchcraft ritual, telling spells, drinking foamy liquids from the shoos of sick people.
They, extraterrestrials and fast zombies, announce the terrible future ahead, the inevitable misfortune awaiting us.
The ordeal begins. The longest most creepiest night in the lives of the hashers.
We walk through a dark town like somnambulists, not knowing where are we going and why? We detect the faint smell of decomposing bodies and urine.
We are lost in a maze of narrow streets leading nowhere, up and down, and up again! Are we going in circles? Will we ever be able to leave this „such a lovely place“? Small kids, or maybe trolls darker than the deepest night, squatting in corners, are yelling at us: This way, this way, this way! Pointing in all directions. We are lost.
We are sent to the top of the city only to see the last rays of the sun disappear beyond the horizon. Complete darkness descends. We have no hope.
It gets worst. We suddenly find ourselves in a graveyard, stepping on tombstones, surrounded by the howling souls of the dead.
Further down the valley of the shadow of death, we hear the heavy chains of the werewolves, rattling in the dark. Creatures with glowing eyes lurking everywhere.
We get to the ruins of an old fort. Fort George. From there we see the city where everyone but the last few of us have been infected by zombies.
And then, we enter the Tunnels of Disappointment where we feel the cold of the shadows of skeletons. Where the final faith awaits the lost souls of the dehydrated.
Haunted tunnels, that have never seen daylight, populated by nasty bent creatures with nice running shoos.
Those of us who make it out of the tunnels alive, are offered a candy by a nun. But the bag is full of spiders!
Back at the haunt, we are punished and humiliated with beer and loud noises.
We are tortured to death with all sorts of alcoholic drinks, mostly beer.
And even though we have become lunatics, people with no hope, and even though this night has forever changed our lives, we survived to tell the tale and this is the end of it!
* The information used in this post is from Wikipedia and from Grenada Hash House Harriers official website.
Read about Maya’s Halloween Birthday celebration here.