[The Chronicle, July 12, 2000]

Hooked on the hash
Wacky club combines fitness and fun

The Chronicle


     The Montreal chapter of the Hash House Harriers takes the typical running routine off the beaten track.
     The recreational exercise club originated in 1938 when a British soldier named Gillespie was sitting with his fellow expatriates in a restaurant called the Hash House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when he had an idea of how they could get some exercise.
     "Gillespie turned to his mates and told them that he was going out (into the jungle) and lay a trail and that they should try and follow," said Ian Hepher, a Kirkland resident and founder of the Montreal chapter.
     That idea evolved into a club with over 1,000 chapters around the world.  The Montreal chapter meets at Moe's Deli and Bar on St. John's Boulevard (we meet anywhere - ed.) and has close to 500 members, with about half from the West Island.  Although participants usually run the trails, they sometimes go on bikes, like they did last Sunday in St. Lazare.

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     In hashing, as they call it, athletic and competitive aspects take a back seat to the social side of things.  The trails are marked such that fast-trackers are slowed down through false trails so that slower participants can keep up.
     "We try to keep the group together," said Hepher.   "It's in the beauty of how the trail is laid."
     The designated hare goes out and drops a one-inch blob of flour every few paces.  In the case of high grass, biodegradable strips of toilet paper are hung from sticks.  In the winter, hares use paprika, concentrated Kool Aid powder or grated carrots.
     To slow down the front-runners, a series of back-checks direct them back a number of trail markings.
     There are short and long trails, depending on your stamina.
     Member's demonstrate their sense of humour through eccentric nicknames such as Cousin It, Skinflint, and in the case of Hepher, Dead Animal.   Current Grand Master, Dave Saunders is called Numbskull.
     They also have their own glossary of terms.  A Daytripper is anyone who trips during a run.  A Hound is a hasher who follows the hare's trail.   Shiggy is mud.

     Comfortable running gear is encouraged, but if someone shows up in new shoes, they are made to drink from them.  But anyone accused of mischievous behaviour is penalized, perhaps by having a toilet seat hung around his head.
     The hash is held irrespective of weather conditions, which only add to the fun.  For serious members, there is a big International Hash held every two years.  The next one is in India.
     "When members visit another country," said Hepher, "they often contact the local chapter for advice on the best accommodations, food, etc."
     The club has no membership fees; participants pay $7 to join weekly events and profits go to a selected charity.
     "We have occasional auctions of silly items," said Hepher," and also raise money through corporate donations.  Last year we raised over two thousand five hundred dollars for the Cedar Cancer Institute."
     For details and a schedule of events, call 840-8769 or go to www.geocities.com/montrealhhh. 


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