When the name “Hash House Harriers” is brought up in general conversation, images of the drug-addled sitting around a house feeding their addiction often are conjured in the minds of the uninitiated. The fact of the matter, though, is that the Hash House Harriers is a global group of runners with their minds set on running, social networking and light-hearted frivolity.
The Hash House Harrier roots extend back to the old English schoolboy game of "Hares and Hounds," in which some players, called "hounds," chase others, called "hares," who have left a trail of paper scraps along their route across fields, hedges, streams, bogs, and hills. One of the earliest Hares and Hounds events on record was the "Crick Run" at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, first held in 1837.
Hare and Hounds as an adult sport began in the fall of 1867 with a group of London oarsmen who wanted to keep fit during the winter. Also called "Paper Chasing" or the "Paper Chase," the game became very popular after its introduction on Wimbledon Common in 1868 by the Thames Hare and Hounds. Early clubs called themselves "Hare and Hounds" or simply "Harriers."
A.S.I., "G" Gispert (1903-1942) The Hash House Harriers, as it is known, today was founded in Malaya (now Malaysia) by Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert, an English chartered accountant.
It was sometime during 1937 when Gispert (or simply "G" as he was known to his friends) acquired a taste for the paper chase with the Springgit Harriers in Malacca (also in Malaya). Shortly after being transferred by his accounting firm to Kuala Lumpur he gathered together a number of fellow expatriate businessmen to form a harrier group. The first run was held in December 1938 and the founding members included Cecil H. Lee, Frederick "Horse" Thomson, Eric Galvin, H.M. Doig, and Ronald "Torch" Bennet.
The group's name came about primarily because local authorities required legal registration of clubs and organizations. While the "Kuala Lumpur Harriers" would have appeared a logical choice, "G" decided instead to use the nickname for the Selangor Club where a number of the local harriers both lived and took their meals. It seems that due to its lackluster food, the dining room was commonly referred to as the "Hash House."
The Original "Hash House," Kuala Lumpur, circa 1938 The philosophy of the original Hash House Harriers from the 1938 charter:
» 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
Hashing in Kuala Lumpur was suspended during the World War II occupation by Japanese forces, but then reestablished after peace returned. It wasn't too long before the hash began slowly spreading around the world. Former members of the original Hash House Harriers started a hash in 1947 near Milan, Italy, but it wasn't until 1962 that the next group was formed in Singapore. The Singapore Hash was gradually followed by others until in 1973 there were approximately 35 hashes in 14 countries.
Subsequently, the hash began spreading like wildfire and the number of hashes soon climbed into the hundreds by the early 1980s. Today there are thousands of active hashes in over 180 countries, including over 500 in the United States.
Hashers are from a wide array of ages, running abilities and demographic backgrounds. Modern hares now mark the trails they lay with informative symbols and simple blobs of more eco-friendly flour and chalk rather than scraps of paper. The paths they follow range from simple, short street running to grueling cross-country tests of will and endurance. The harriers follow the laid path in a group effort to catch the hare, shouting "On! On!" to let other harriers know that they have found and are following the trail.
Hashers world-wide take a great deal of pride as they describe their organization (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) "a drinking club with a running problem". Hashes subscribe to the philosophy that the more participants the merrier and welcome all comers.
Hashing since 2001 and I still haven't lost a finger.