The Worldwide Club of Hashing

Hashing is great way to meet and run with others all around the world.

Running the Hash in Kenya - kinda cool, ain't it!
Running the Hash in Kenya - kinda cool, ain't it!

I am a hasher. It all started back in Nairobi in 2003 when, looking for places to run in this crowded and confusing African capital, someone suggested joining the hash. For two years, I met up with them on a Monday night, and joined in on an hour’s run around the streets and suburbs.

Each week the run would be different and runners would not know where it would go. Instead, the run is marked with blobs of chalk and follow a set of special markings that show the way to run. There would be dots, circles, crosses and lines signifying oddities such as the right way, false trails, short-cuts, and signs to wait for others. There were also special sets of calls to let others know you had found the way. All this mêlée of signs and calls serves to allow slow runners to catch up with the fast ones and so keep the pack together.

Chalk marks the trail, strategically placed on some elephant dung on a Kenyan hash run.
Chalk marks the trail, strategically placed on some elephant dung on a Kenyan hash run.

Hashing also has a very special social side. After the run, there’s a circle of all the runners, where fun is typically made of all and sundry, and copious amounts of beer are slugged. In fact, some hashers would see their hash as a “Drinking Club with a Running Problem”, with emphasis being placed on the drinking as opposed to athletic side.

The Hash welcomes runners and drinkers of any age.
The Hash welcomes runners and drinkers of any age.

During my travels, I often try to meet up with the hash in the capital I find myself in. The hash is a great way to meet others when you’re new to a place, as well as an excellent way to get out of the city and run a few new places. You just need to be a bit mentally prepared to ignore the school boy humour and drinking that often accompanies it.

Being currently based in Ho Chi Minh, I decided to join Saigon’s Hash Run last Sunday. From just outside the Carvelle Hotel, forty of us were whisked away by Hash’s own bus into the rural area just an hour north of the city. There, we ran around in circles for just under 2 hours following those pesky little chalk marks. Those marks led us alone canals and rivers, through homesteads and fields, even straight through the middle of a pig farm. It was a really fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, in a place that I would never know to go running in.

Running along with the Saigon Hash in fields near Ho Chi Minh.
Running along with the Saigon Hash in fields near Ho Chi Minh.

To quench our thirst after such a long exertion, we headed off to the nearby Tiger Beer Brewery for a few pints and a cool down. With the weather typically in the thirties, and with beer less than a euro a pint, it was hard not to take advantage of the situation. True, not the most athletic of pursuits, but sometimes I figure its fun to be just a social runner rather than always a mad competitive one.

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