So last weekend I participated in my first “Hash” run. That is, the Hash House Harriers, an international group that organizes runs all over the world.
The origins of the group is as British as the name. It started in 1938 when a bunch of British expats in Malaysia decided to run every monday to burn off the excesses of their crazy weekends. But not just a normal run, they decided to keep it in the style of a hare and hound race. A tradition that lives on today.
The “hare” sets up the course, and the runners have no idea where it goes. Real hounds follow the trail by scent, but us humans need a more visual guide. The Hare leaves a flour trail. About every 30 meters there is a mark, a patch of flour, that you need to look for to follow.
But the hare has some tricks, and includes false trails, and intersections. At an intersection (marked by a big open circle made of flour) runners have to go out in all 3 directions and figure out which is the real path. These kinds of traps and false leads are meant to keep the groups together and give slower runners a chance to catch up. When a runner finds the real trail they yell “On on!” and everyone follows them.
A different Hare sets up each run, and in Xiamen they tend to be about 10k all together. But remember they are a drinking club, so there are beer stops along the way for everyone to catch up and take a break. (And start getting drunk.)
In Xiamen they set up two courses, one for runners and one for walkers. The people that participated were a wide group in both nationality and age. About half were chinese, and half were foreigners (though the leaders of the club are all foreigners.) Everyone had to pay $3 which covered all the beer and snacks and everything was done in English and Chinese.
The start point is marked with a flour “On On” and the finish is marked with an “On In.” Before we started we did some warm-up exercises to the tune of “Father Abraham” and we were off. (Singing is a large part of the Hash.) Our walk took us 3 hours and winded along the Xiamen seaside. It was one of my favorite walks I’ve been on here as the path went through tiny villages, community gardens, and the beach.
When you arrive at the end, the Hare, and a ton of beer, is waiting for you. Everyone circles up, and people are called out for various reasons (such as first-timers, slowest, fastest, most appropriately dressed, least appropriately dressed etc) and are made to stand in the middle of the circle. There are various lewd songs (sung to common tunes like amazing grace) that the group sings and the people in the middle have to chug their cup of beer as fast as they can and tip the empty cup over their head to show they have finished. If you don’t chug it, the leader tips a full cup of beer over your head as punishment. (They also had soda and water for those of us who didn’t feel like drinking.)
It’s definitely loud and bawdy, and I can see how, with the wrong group of people it can be rude and annoying. But we had a really good group (with a few old ladies too) and it was really fun. Afterwards, we walked down the mountain and ate a big seafood meal together.
The Xiamen group is a well established one (our walk was number 88, and they only do it once a month) and very inclusive. They didn’t pressure anyone to drink, (I didn’t) was nice to the newbies and made sure everyone was included.
Hash House Harriers has over 2000 groups all over the world, so if you are in China, or another country, you should check them out and hopefully has as much fun as I did!