Oxford Hash House Harriers are a sociable running club and just one of the many hundreds of Hash chapters running around the world.
We run every Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. on a hash trail somewhere in Oxford or the neighbouring area. Our runs usually start from a pub or occasionally a car park in the countryside.
The trail is laid in flour by the “hare” before the run and has check points with false trails, and short-cuts, that allow slower runners and walkers to catch up with the faster runners. A run is typically 4 to 5 miles long and takes about an hour.
We run mainly in towns during the winter months and out in the glorious Oxfordshire countryside during the summer. We are a very diverse group of various levels of fitness from running club members to people whose only weekly exercise may be a slow jog around the hash.
After the run we have a circle where food and drink is served as well as some entertainment, before we decamp to a local pub.
Newcomers and visitors are always welcome: just turn up at one of our forthcoming hashes, listed on the home page.
What is Hashing?
Hashing is running around the streets and footpaths following a trail laid by the “hare”. The trail is marked by blobs of flour that the “pack” of runners search for as they run along.
The idea follows the tradition of paper-chase and hare & hounds runs where one person (the hare) runs ahead, laying a trail to represent their scent and the “pack of hounds” are the rest of the runners trying to catch the hare. The distance is usually about four miles and takes about an hour, which is quite slow for a jogging pace because the hash is not constant running.
Every so often, typically at places where several paths meet, the hare will leave a gap in the trail so the pack are uncertain which way the hare went. This is known as a “check” and the fittest runners who arrived at the junction first will split up and check down each of the paths until one of them finds the trail again. They then shout that they have found the trail and the rest of the pack (such as the less-fit runners who wait at the junction) follow the correct path.
A good hare will lay a trail that keeps the whole pack together, with enough checks to tire out the fittest runners whilst still allowing the slower runners to keep up. The hash finishes when the pack find the trail all the way back to the pub where it started.
The Oxford hash have what we refer to as a “beer stop” at the end of the trail and before getting back to the pub. At this beer stop food and drink is provided to all the hashers. Most hashes have the trail laid before the day of the run so the hare is never actually caught and usually runs with the pack.
The Hash Experience
Hashing is a very laid back activity undertaken by people who enjoy fresh air, like a bit of exercise, and enjoy socialising. It is not surprising that hashing is known as “the drinking club with a running problem”!
The hash is organised by volunteers known as the mis-management committee and they get hares to lay each weeks run, others to provide food and drink and also organise other social activities. The person in-charge, so-to-speak, is known as the Grand Master (GM)and they kick off each weeks hash, introducing the hare and newcomers in the process.
Hashers are very self-deprecating and this is typified by the activities of the Religious Advisor (RA). During the end-of-trail beer stop the RA will convene a circle where various hashers are called-to-book for mis-demeanours observed during the trail. The offending hasher will be given a beer and have to down-down it in one go while the rest of the hashers sing a silly song!
It is during the circle that a hasher may be given a nickname by the RA. These nicknames may reflect the hasher’s character and names are given in affection, so don’t be surprised if you hear people called by very strange names!
The trail is normally marked using ordinary flour as it bright white, shows up well against most backgrounds and bio-degrades after a few days. Other substances sometimes used include chalk, saw-dust and even tissue paper, and when it snows clever hares mix paint power into the flour to make coloured marks that show against the snow.
The type and number of markings vary with hash groups in different areas, but these are the ones used by Oxford:
Four blobs and on: Hares are a devious breed and not every blob of flour marks the correct trail! Oxford hashers follow the convention that four consecutive blobs of flour indicate the correct trail. That means that the hare will often put one or two blobs of flour along false trails, to encourage the fitter hashers to run further along them, when the trail actually goes in a different direction.
Circles for checks: A circle of flour indicates a check point, i.e. that the correct trail could go off in any one of a number of directions. The fittest hashers (known as the FRB’s or Front Running Bastards) then check down each direction shouting how many blobs of flour they find. When four in a row are found the hasher shouts “On On” to indicate they have found the correct trail, and the slower hashers, waiting at the check, (known as the “Knitting Circle”) follow the correct path.
Crosses for false trails: A cross marked in flour indicates a false trail so if you find one you should go back to the check and try a different path. However, not all false trails are marked with crosses. Some false trails have one to three blobs of flour and then nothing, so don’t run too far until you find the fourth mark!
RG for a re-group: A circle with the letters RG inside, or just the letters RG indicate a re-group. This means that everyone waits at the mark for the last person to arrive before continuing to look for the trail.
Arrows for the correct trail: An arrow mark indicates the direction the correct trail takes.
On In to the pub: The ON IN mark or ON INN mark indicates that the trail is nearly complete and that you will shortly be going on in to the pub!
History of Hashing
Hashing started in 1938 when a group of British colonial officers and expatriates began meeting on Monday evenings in Kuala Lumpur to run paper-chase style runs in order to rid themselves of the excesses of the preceding weekend. The original members included Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert who is recognised as the “father of hashing”. After meeting for several months they were told that they should have an official name and constitution and Gispert suggested the name “Hash House Harriers” after the Selangor Club Annex where the men lived, known as the “Hash House” for its notoriously monotonous food.
The constitution of the original club was to promote physical fitness among the members: get rid of weekend hangovers; acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer; and to persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel.
Hashing died out during World War II after the invasion of Malaya but was re-started my most of the original group. Gispert was killed on 11th February 1942 in the Japanese invasion of Singapore and an annual memorial hash is held in February to commemorate this.
The hashing idea gradually spread from Malaya, Singapore through the Far East, Europe to Australia, New Zealand and North America and there are now almost two thousand chapters in all parts of the world.
A Brief History of Oxford Hash
The Oxford Hash started out of conflict. Daglocks, in trying to avoid a nasty divorce situation, decided to take a gap year and see a bit of the world. He disappeared from Bicester Hash for around eighteen months then, in August, re-appeared with a new wife and a great idea – lets start a Hash!! As I pointed out at the original meeting we already had two hashes in the area, Bicester , with M.K. and Berkshire not a mega distance away. Ladybird was actually running regularly with Berkshire at that time. However Daglocks insisted that it was time Oxford had it’s own hash run along the lines of the far eastern Hashes that he had run with in Thailand. “We need lots of Down-Downs and food on every run” he insisted “It works brilliantly in Thailand”.
Of course it does where the evening temperature drops to a chilly 27 centigrade!
Despite the scepticism of most of those present we reluctantly agreed that it might work. “When do you propose to start it?” asked Wha de Say.
“The beginning of October” replied Daglocks.
“Don’t be so bloody stupid, you want to have a Hash with down-downs and hot food at every run and you are going to start it in October with dark, cold nights coming on?”
“Yes, do you want to be the R.A.?”
However Daglocks can be quite persuasive and I agreed that I would take the job on under the conditions that I would stand down when the numbers fell to single figures by the turn of the year!
We then proceeded to advertise the new Hash by putting flyers up in all the University colleges, as Daglocks wanted to target a younger group of people. He felt that Bicester was getting a bit long in the tooth to attract younger hashers. We also spent a few weekends handing out flyers to joggers in the city. The result of all this activity was notable by it’s singular lack of success in attracting anyone new to hashing and by run 10 we only ever had two students running with us.
As part of the promotion of the Hash Lockjaw, who had a friend working for Central news, said that he would get him along to film the inaugural run. More scepticism followed, however on the 6th of October 1999 at The Royal Oak on Woodstock Road a film crew turned up and interviewed Daglocks and myself and proceeded to follow us as we laid the trail around the old part of town.
As we neared the pub after laying the trail we were a bit apprehensive regarding how many people would actually be there and were astounded to find about 80 hashers waiting for the off. The food that night, and for many runs afterwards was Thai curry provided by Oyeh, Daglock’s new wife.
The rest as they say is history and the smallest run I can remember was one where there was a tremendous dump of snow, just before the start, that paralysed Oxford, and even on that run we had around fifteen. Hashers from the first run that still run regularly are Lockjaw, Ladybird, Fagend, Dingaling, Pony Express and Wha de Say with others who turn up occasionally.
Wha de Say, November 2007.
A Video of Oxford Hash House Harriers Run #1
Central News were on hand to film Oxford Hash House Harriers run #1
Poto Ergo Curro
Poto, drink; Ergo, because or therefore; Curro, to run. Our motto, in Latin, I drink therefore I run.
We’re the “odd sock” hash: we all turn up wearing odd socks, it’s just our “thing”.
Regular Oxford hashers get a cloth sew-on badge at 10 runs, a bum-bag at 100 runs, and a hash-name necklace at 200 runs and an engraved Pewter tankard at 500 runs. An odd sock is also awarded at 69 runs and again at 138 runs.