Hashing Explained

(or at least an attempt at an explanation...)

Hindu Kush Hash House Harriers

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What is a Hash?

Variously described as "the lunatic fringe of running" and "the drinking club with a running problem," the Hash House Harriers are a worldwide group with some 350 chapters in the United States, and a few thousand throughout the world.

Our premise is simple -- one or more harriers (the hares) lay a trail of flour over a course they choose. The other harriers (the hounds) try to follow that trail to the end where we enjoy munchies and beer (or soft drinks for those disinclined to imbibe). The typical hash is 3-5 miles. The hash isn't a race - no prizes to the swift. Following the trail is the challenge, camaraderie and beverages are the rewards.


A Brief History of Hashing (external link)

A Guide to Hash Marks (external link)

Calls of the Wild

"ARE YOU?" - This is the only call that is a question. And, because we're a somewhat simple-minded group, it's the only question that we ever ask. All other calls are a response to the question, "ARE YOU?"

"ON-ON!" - Music to a Hasher's ear. This is the correct response if you are on the right trail. In addition, when already on the right trail, Hashers should call "ON ON!" each and every time they come across an additional dot of flour. It's important that all hashers call the ON - it's our primitive communication system that alerts everyone down the line the proper way to go.

"CHECKING!" - When you approach a check, or if you are checking and have not found any dots, you should call this loud and clear.

"ON ONE!" - Call this when you are checking and you find one On On or if you're checking and someone else calls to you "ARE YOU?" and you've found one On On.

"ON TWO!" - Call this when you are checking and you've found two On Ons and if you're checking and someone else calls to you "ARE YOU?" and you've found two On Ons.

"ON THREE!" - Call this when you are checking and you've found three On Ons and if you're checking and someone else calls to you "ARE YOU?" and you've found three On Ons. Three On Ons after a Check mark should indicate a True Trail, unless you reach a YBF (a longer version of the False Trail), or if the Hare totally screwed up (in which case, s/he will drink for it!).

"LOOKING!" - If you're looking for On On, but are not at a Check, then the proper response is "LOOKING!"

"ON-IN!" or "ON HOME!"- Call this when you see the ON-IN or ON-HOME written on the ground.

"BEER NEAR!"- Call this when you see the BEER NEAR written on the ground. The finish (ON-IN or ON HOME) should be within 1/4 mile when you find a BEER NEAR.

Mystique of the Hash

(slightly edited - full version can be found here)
(for the ULTRA short version, just read the underlined portions)

What is it about hashing that casts its spell over us and feeds our addiction? Hashing is, after all, a weird aberration in the world of recreational running. Our favored response is to tell these perplexed mortals, "We're a drinking club with a running problem!" It really is a pretty cute rejoinder that often elicits a broad smile and maybe a shout of approval . . . but it's also misleading and it doesn't always turn out to be the perfect little snappy remark we want it to be.  One of the wonderful things about hashers is their unstated and unspoken resolve to never put pressure on anyone to use alcoholic beverages. It is clearly understood that some people prefer not to use alcohol. They don't like it, or health considerations rule it out. These hashers are accorded total respect.

It's not enough to say that it's all about fun and fitness. A lot of running clubs feature that slogan and, in a sense, it says it all and it makes an important statement to the effect that our passion is not necessarily related to competition, winning, or ego inflation. Hashing, by contrast, is an alternative to the world of grunting, stinking, sweating bodies holed up in a jungle of steel contraptions. Hashing leads to a different level of fitness that contributes to the soundness of body in a less aggressive way.

The noncompetitive aspect of hashing is a joyful release from the oval track, stop watches, and finishing chutes of the good old 10 K roadrace. Of course we find fun and camaraderie at the roadraces, too. Lots of hashers are avid roadracers and there is no reason for hashing and roadracing to be an either/or choice.

Hash rewards include a higher level of camaraderie that can only exist among close friends. Mutually shared expressions of warmth and affection doled out with hugs and smiles that extend naturally beyond the hash event. We enjoy getting together for non-running social events, too. 

The variety of personalities that constitute a regional hash are quite amazing. And it's not only the individual hashers---the hash, as an entity, is likely to have a personality. Some hash units are more party oriented rather than being gung-ho for running. In a light-hearted way, they display their mock disdain for hard running by using the word "run" as though it were an obscenity. Other hash units are composed of many serious runners who thirst after physically daunting trails. They may even manage to create some kind of competitive twist to the event. Some hashers love to sing. The raunchier the lyrics, the better. And many hash units embrace the whole spectrum of motivations.

But back to the individuals because here is where we have something special in the social interaction of all kinds of men and women. What is wonderful about it, and what is something of a unique hash phenomenon, is the total, unquestioning acceptance that hashers have for each other. People do not come to a hash with agendas that include a need to impress others with how important, or rich, or how smart they are. Nobody cares if you're a plumber, stockbroker, big shot executive, tax collector (well, that might create some negative disposition), lawyer (with a high tolerance for nasty jokes), salesperson, chemistry prof (they're the worst kind), or whatever. Criteria for acceptance into hash events are simply a few bucks to pay for food and drink, a love of adventure running on trails, and a zest for partying that is likely to be on the "R-rated" side.

One of the really delightful things about hashing is the chance it affords us to react to the smothering effect of political and social correctness. To be a rebel. To leave, temporarily, our sheltered structures and directed work-a-day worlds that are so filled with expectations and responsibilities. There are no Rules in the hash universe. The hash is the time and place for behavior based on a mock disrespect for genteel conventions and family values. But it's all done in a spirit of fun, and that's why it works and exists as a major part of the hash mystique. Another characteristic of many hash groups throughout the world is the special nickname that assembled hashers hang on a newly inducted member. The age, gender, or lifestyle of the newcomer is irrelevant.

What is great about the hash is the degree of harmony that seems to have become one of the major characteristics of our remarkably inclusive society. It is largely because of this spirit, this attitude, that the hash movement has evolved into an unstructured but nevertheless international affiliation. For example, it is absolutely fantastic how a hasher from one part of the world can get on the Internet and hit on the web pages of hashes thousands of miles away, then, choosing among the e-mail addresses displayed, contact an officer of any foreign hash, introduce himself and announce his plans to be there on such and such a date, and ask if there's a local hasher who has enough room for him to crash for a day or two so that he can hash with them. In the hash, the answer is never No, it's always positive. There is a real sense of fraternity among hashers throughout the world that opens doors and multiplies friendships.

Stan Cherim
Hockessin HHH, Deleware USA