by Victoria “I is EZ” Prater
Hashing. It sounds illegal, doesn’t it? But really, it’s the perfect combination of exercise, social interaction and beer. If Busch Light, PBR and Miller High Life aren’t good enough for you, go sit at some snotty bar in Power & Light. But if you can appreciate all-you-can-drink amounts of your dad’s favorite yard beer, you’ll fit right in.
Some of us are runners, but without much emphasis on speed, hence the slogan “drinking club with a running problem.” In fact, it may as well be “drinking club with a bi-pedal locomotion problem,” since many of our members walk rather than run.
Hashers are people of all ages from all walks of life who like to drop the hum-drum of the everyday for a few hours in exchange for beer, a smattering of exercise and a politically incorrect good time.
In 1938, A.S. Gispert, an accountant working at a Malaysian rubber plantation, organized a group of his friends for runs to work off the rigors of the weekend. They met at the Sanegal Hash House (hash house being a British term for a diner) and there played the poor man’s version of the fox hunt called “paper chase.” This involved giving one runner a few minutes head start, then following the trail of discarded paper left by the fleeing man. “G” (Gispert) added a twist: at various points in the trail, an intersection was set. Trail could head off in any direction, but only one direction was true. Faster runners were slowed as they solved the trail, allowing slower runners or walkers to catch up. Thus, the Hash House Harriers were born. Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare and finding the trail, harriers reaching the end of the trail were rewarded with beer, ginger beer and cigarettes. (Sorry, the KC Hash won’t give you any cigarettes – you’re on your own for that).
Hashing is, quite literally, everywhere. You can find hash clubs in nearly every city, state and country all over the world. It might be the world’s best kept secret. Once you are a hasher, you will be accepted into any hash fold wherever you may find yourself, from Oklahoma to Thailand. In fact, hashers have their own social network modeled after MySpace called HashSpace (www.hashspace.com).
The Kansas City Hash House Harriers group was founded by Darren Bennett and his wife Marita Bennett (a.k.a., “Fast Chug” and “Chihuahua”) in 1986 when they moved here from California.
“After hashing in San Deigo for several years, Darren left the Navy and announced he was moving back to Kansas City,” says Marita Bennet. “At that time, here was no hash kennel in KC, so naturally we decided to start one. We started the paperwork in ’86 but didn’t have our first official run until 1988 – that’s how long it took to get people interested! And the rest…is history.”
Distance and Territory
The trail is one of the most exciting parts of a hash run. The hare/s (the host/s of the run) lay a trail to be solved by the pack which is marked in chalk, flour or toilet paper, depending on terrain. Trails can go anywhere. Be prepared to run through fields, woods or jungle, ford streams and jump fences. KC’s average trails are two to five miles long. Each week the hashes start and end in different places all over the Kansas City metro area.
Because we sometimes have parts of the runs or the end of runs in bars, hashing is restricted to adults (21 and over). The hash is a fun group, but far from politically correct. We have filthy drinking songs, mostly stolen from English rugby teams, which would make many respectable people blush. A good sense of humor is the hash’s only real requirement.
After finishing the trail, the circle commences. The circle is both the celebration at the end of the trail, and an opportunity to “reward” hashers guilty of some misdeeds with copious amounts of beer. During circle, everyone will do at least one “down-down”. This is a cup of beer (or soda or water, if needed), awarded to various hashers for trail infractions, birthdays, or any other bizarre reason we can think of. A drinking song accompanies each down-down, and then you have to chug away. It’s great fun in the frat party tradition. Food is also usually provided at the end.
Hashers all have nicknames which are always used during hash events. After about five hashes, if we think we have enough dirt on you, you will earn your hash name. Much like our filthy drinking songs, hash names are not intended to be cute or pretty. In fact, some have to be abbreviated to avoid us being thrown out of public places when spoken aloud.
How Do I Join?
Visit www.kch3.com to meet the KC hashers, learn more and get information on upcoming events/hashes - then just show up. A fee of $6 is charged per person to help with the cost of the refreshments. There is no annual fee or commitment. Show up as seldom or often as you like, keeping in mind that missing hashes (known as “back sliding”) is cause for doing a down-down…not that chugging a beer is punishment in our eyes.
See you at the hash!