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Hash House Harriers
A Cross Country Run with a Difference

Hash House Harriers - A Cross Country Run with a Difference
By Wayne Tarman

The Hash House Harriers (HHH) was established in Malaysia in 1938 by a group of British colonial officials. Whilst pondering life over a few beers at the "Hash House" - the dining room at the Selangor Club - they realised that the combination of too much beer and zero exercise was leading them up the rocky road to overweight ruin. As there was zero chance of them giving up the beer they decided to form a club to organise cross country runs on a regular basis.

From the start the hash was designed so that people of all levels of fitness could enjoy the run. A typical run lasts for one and an half hours and is usually held in secondary jungles, rubber or oil-palm estates or across farmland. A track design formula generally ensures that the fastest runner only finishes half an hour or so before the slowest runner. The end of the run is not the end of the hash meet. After every run the harriers head to a local restaurant for a meal and more often than not a heavy beer drinking session.

A couple of hours before the hash run, the appointed `hare' goes to the run site and marks out a trail with scraps of paper. The trail is highly irregular and includes false trails, loop sections and other confusing design measures. The reason for these design features is to allow the faster runners to `recce' the next section of the trail while the slower runners catch up. This hash formula helps to ensure that the whole group of runners stays together. The run starts with the rallying cry of the HHH - "on, on". Once the run is under way and runners are looking for the paper they often shout "are you" to the front-runners. The front-runners reply with "checking" if they are probing, or "on, on" if they have found the trail.

The idea of runners chasing a paper trail was quite common in colonial Malaya during the 1930's. However, the group of drinking buddies that formed the HHH in 1938 institutionalised the idea of a fun filled cross country run followed by a social gathering. The Hash House Harriers remained a solely KL-based institution for over twenty years. It was not until the early 1960's when the Hash started to expand its geographical reach. At first the hash expanded in Peninsula Malaysia and Northern Borneo with chapters opening in Singapore, Ipoh, Penang, Brunei, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. In 1967 a chapter was established in Perth, the first Hash to form outside its traditional base of Malaysia/Singapore.

Today the HHH is a truly international organisation. There are over 500 chapters in some 70 odd countries. Annual Inter-Hash meetings are held every year and attract thousands of runners from all over the globe. Although the hash is still something of an expat tradition in some cities in Southeast Asia, membership of the Hash has changed over the years. Today, the Hash is no longer a solely expat thing. On most runs you'll find that the majority of runners are from the local town where the chapter is based. There will certainly be a few expats plus some guests and visitors from other hash chapters around the world. Everyone will be there for the fun and the run.

The hash warmly welcomes guests. Larger hash chapters in Malaysia organise a number of runs every week, including Men Only runs (the original colonial days tradition), Women Only runs (the Harriettes), Mixed runs and Children's runs. Guests pay a nominal fee to join the run and an additional fee if they opt for the meal after the run. The Hash is more than a cross country run. Its a kind of social club where old friends meet and new friendships are made. For any visitor to Malaysia the hash is a great way of meeting Malaysians and catching a glimpse of rural Malaysia. Virgin runners are made most welcome. They also have to participate in a few rituals after the run. After the initiation rites (alcohol and songs) you'll feel part of the hash clan and no doubt sign up for membership.

Kuching Hash Details

Harriers (Men only) Tuesday at 5.30 pm
Harriettes (Ladies Only) Wednesday at 5.30 pm
City Hash (Mixed) Saturday 4.30 pm

If you fancy joining in contact Tom Leng (082-416778) or Jennifer Yap (082-411694) for further details.

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