When I was living and working in Abuja, Nigeria, I was introduced to a fun running/walking group called the Hash House Harriers. This crazy, fun group was made up of people from all over the world. Expats and Nigerians alike. While mighty hot, we did our darndest to follow the trail and make it to the top.
Hash, A History
In 1938, in what is now called Malaysia, a group of British officers started meeting on Monday afternoons to go for a run. The idea was to cleanse their bodies of the ‘excessives’ of the previous weekend. Eating in their mess hall at the time, they decided to nickname their group the Hash House Harriers.
It wasn’t until after World War II that the group was formally established with a constitution. The objectives were recorded in 1950:
- Promote physical fitness among our members
- Get rid of weekend hangovers
- Acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
- Persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
As the group evolved, so did the rules. First, a “chalk talk” circle would be formed. This lets anyone new understand what to look for as well as what the various call outs meant.
But the hare is still the most vital component. Before the group comes together for a run (usually monthly), a hare goes out and marks the new trail with shredded paper, chalk or sawdust. The hare will often set false trails that challenge the runners (and walkers) to stay alert and be vigilant. The runners out front will yell “on on” when they find a trail marking indicating that everyone is on the right path. Or they may yell “looking” if they can’t find it. These false trails tend to be at difficult inclines or other challenges and allow for everyone to stop, get a breath and look for the trail. Once the shredd is spotted an “on on” is yelled and everyone is off running again.
In Nigeria our halfway point was always at the top of a hill with amazing vistas looking out on the vast countryside surrounding Abuja. We ran through yucca, coffee and banana plantations as well as over rocks and through thick bush. It was always a challenge and super fun. When reaching the top a truck full of water, soda and beers greeted us and everyone enjoyed a good hour of relaxing, laughing and enjoying the view.
Then “on on” would be called and off we would head down the other side and eventually back around to our starting point.
We would be called to “circle up.” Long standing members would sing songs, newbies would be initiated with silly songs and a dousing of various liquids. It was always good fun.
Hashing in Nigeria was very special as it took me through areas I would not have seen on my own. The countryside is so unique, the people so warm and I really treasure my experience. I will definitely look for a HASH group the next time I am abroad.
Ever take part in a HASH? I’d love to hear your story – comment below.