The Montreal Gazette, July 11, 1998

When running's rewards include an ice-cold beer

Irreverent Hash House Harriers show fitness can be fun

    The Montreal Hash House Harriers call themselves a drinking club with a running problem.
    What they really are is a running club with a relentless spirit and a truly unique way to keep fit.  With pet names like Pacemaker, Hanky Panky, Dead Animal and Gimme Gimme Got, nobody in this pack of runners trains too seriously.
    Hashing is a unique re-creation of an old-fashioned fox-and-hounds style chase.  The hare (one member of the group) spends the morning setting a trail and marking the route with flour or road chalk.  In the afternoon, the harriers (the runners and walkers) attempt to follow the route to its final destination.  Hashes have taken place in the cornfields of Ile Perrot, the treelined streets of Westmount, through the underground city, and the back alleys of the McGill ghetto.

   "Road running gets boring," says hasher Murray Davies.  "We see the city from a different perspective."
    While the fun would seem to be in the chase, setting the trail has its own rewards.
    Most hares set up numerous false markers, sending the first hounds off in the wrong direction.  These miscues allow the slower runners and walkers to catch up with the leaders.
    The idea is for everyone to reach the finish line at about the same time.
    The distance of an average hash is anywhere from 5 to 8 kilometres.  The fun is in following the trail not pushing the body to its limits.   A normal run of this distance takes about 25 to 40 minutes.  Hashers take an hour or more to wind their way through the trail, following clues and false cues to the final destination.

[Bunch of Hashers Photo]

   Hashing has a history that traces back to 1938.  A British expatriate living in Malaysia decided to create a chase featuring men, not animals.  The "hare" was given a head start into the woods, where he blazed a trail using bits of paper as markers.  The "harriers" followed in pursuit.   Reaching the end of the trail was the most satisfying, as a tub of iced-down beer was the reward.  The Hash House was the nickname of the club from which the original runs took place. 

Hash House Harriers: A lexicon

Hare:   The person responsible for the design and laying of the trail.
Harriers:  The pack of runners/walkers.
Hash:  Run.
Hare Line:  The roster of hash dates and locations.
Grand Master:  The founder or most experienced hasher.
Religious Advisor:  The arbiter of hash tradition.
Hash Monk:  Assists the Religious Adviser.
On-Sec:  Secretary.
Hash Trash:  Newsletter.
Hash Cash:  The collector of hash fees.
Hash Scribe:  Writes up details of each run.
Hash Trays:  Transports and serves refreshments.
Hash Flash:  Photographer.

   Since that time Hash House Harriers have sprung up across the globe.  There are hundreds of clubs around the world, an international Web site, regional newsletters and world hashing conventions spreading the word and carrying on the tradition.
    The Montreal Hash House Harriers have about 100 members, ranging from 18 to 70 years of age.  Hashes take place every Sunday afternoon, year round.  In the winter, the trails are marked by ground up carrots or red cabbage, both making excellent markers in the snow.
    Davies is the pack's Religious Adviser.  His job is to make sure all runners adhere to an environmentally strict code of conduct:

    No. 1:  The Religious Advisor is always right.
    No. 2:  No new shoes.
    No. 3:  No littering.
    No. 4:  No cutting through farmers' crops.
    No. 5:  Get permission to use private property for a car park (starting point for a run).
    No. 6:  No fouling the trail.
    No. 7:  There are no rules.
    No. 8:  If the Religious Advisor is wrong, refer to rule No. 1.

   The highlight of a hash is the finish, where continuing with tradition, the group celebrates by replacing fluids lost during the run.  Called an "On On", most runs end in a comfortable location where the celebration and post race review often take longer than the race itself. 
   New hashers (virgins) are always welcome.  "We usually have one or two out-of-towners at each hash," said Davies.  "Embassy personnel and the U.S. military are regular guests."   The cost of each run is $7, to cover basic expenses and the refreshments.
    According to the Hash Bible, the only prerequisite is a sense of humour.  Running and athletic ability usually take a back seat to the social aspects of the sport.
    Davies explained that hashers come from all walks of life.   He experienced his first hash in Singapore, and has since run hashes in Malaysia and Indonesia.
    He joined the founder of the Montreal Hash House Harriers, Ian Hepher, in 1995.  Since then, the Montreal chapter has run 76 hashes, their most recent being a Full Moon Hash (an evening run).

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