Post Standard Entertainment Report Katrina Tulloch joined us for the 80s Run at Fleet Feet and wrote the following. Link here, and copied below just in case the Post removes it 🙂
Collectively, this group is called a kennel and tonight their running theme is the 1980s.
Individually, they are neon-clad joggers of all ages, dressed like backup dancers from a Wham! music video, and they are infiltrating a suburban neighborhood in East Syracuse.
Two burly guys in short-shorts jump in shimmering puddles around the quiet street, splashing mud on the calves of their fellow joggers. They shriek, laugh and spank each other.
A middle-aged woman drives past, slowly. She stares blankly at them from her minivan.
At the front of the pack is a tall, dark and 20-something, sporting zebra-print leggings. A Lauper-blonde wig soaks up sweat on his forehead and stays put even after running three miles.
He beckons the kennel to a nearby cemetery, where the beer is hidden. He knows this, since he helped hide it there a few hours ago. Everyone follows him toward the gravestones. About 20 minutes later, someone finds a clue and yells the magic words:
For the Syracuse On-On-Dog-A Hash House Harriers and Harriettes (SOH4), this translates to “mission accomplished.” They crack open their second beer cooler of the night and do what they do best.
Welcome to the Hash House
Every Monday at 6 p.m., this “drinking club with a running problem” meets at a random place in or around Syracuse to run a 3-4 mile course chosen by a select few members, called “hares.” The course is a mystery, complete with false leads, clues and beer stops along the way.
“It’s a mixture of a scavenger hunt, a 5K and Beer Olympics,” said Christine, a 28-year-old professional living in Syracuse. “We range in age from 21 to early 60s. We have people who are good runners. We have people who are good drinkers. We have a really good mix.”
The hounds of the Syracuse kennel run anywhere their hares lead them, including through cemeteries, six-foot-high shrubbery and sewage. On Monday, July 1, the run, called a “hash,” seemed to include all three.
Between puddle-jumping and occasionally spanking each other, the runners kept their eyes on the ground, searching for clues marked with flour. They followed flour dots and coded symbols to find cold beer and spiked iced tea hidden in an old barn.
“Usually a 30-pack is hidden, sometimes in bags and coolers, or in sewage drains,” Christine said. “Sometimes they get stolen, because you set it at a high school. That was a bad day. There was no beer.”
The gang stopped to guzzle down their treasure, while Christine led the group in an X-rated drinking song.
The songs grew progressively raunchier as the night waxed on. They’re the kind of songs you hear at rugby games or fraternity houses. A universal hash hymnal is adopted by each kennel.
Having fun seems to matter much more to this group than getting fit. Hash runs are noncompetitive and the club doesn’t take kindly to “racist bastards.”
“We have a ‘no racism’ clause, which means if you run marathons, bully for you,” Christine said. “We don’t talk about that here. You can’t wear your ‘I completed an ‘Ironman’ T-shirt.’ Like, don’t wear that to a hash. That’s not cool.”
That Monday, some people did wear marathon T-shirts and were “punished” with a few more rounds to drink at the end of the hash. Lesson learned.
The current Syracuse Hash House was founded in the summer of 2012 by John Cressey, who started hashing 13 years ago in Cincinnati, Ohio. He started on Cinco de Mayo, where the harriers (runners) drank margaritas between jogs.
“We ended up drinking in a park next to a church revival meeting,” said Cressey, 45.
Cressey reignited the defunct hash chapter in Syracuse and drew 25 people to the first run on August 13, 2012. They ran throughout the fall and winter, and kicked off their summer season on April 1.
Hash houses exist internationally, thanks to a group of down-trodden British expats stationed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1938. The troops started a scavenger hunt to boost morale on their runs, based on an old English game called Hare and Hounds.
One of the officers, A.S. Gispert, called the group the “Hash House Harriers” since the scavenger hunts led troops to their mess hall, known as the “hash house.” The troops would end the hash singing songs and drinking beer, as people still do today.
“While some people assume we are a club for smoking dope, that is not the case,” Cressey said.
Kuala Lumpur is the mecca for hashers, and many strive to make a hash pilgrimage there. Gispert was later killed in the war, but clubs around the world celebrate his birthday every year. Hashing is particularly popular in the army and troops returning to Fort Drum often make the trek to the Syracuse club.
Today there are more than 2,000 registered Hash House Harrier clubs around the world.
At a Syracuse hash, you might have the pleasure of meeting Dr. Drinks Alone, Professor Crash Pants, Doggie Down-Down, Running Commentary, One Trick Dick, Strictly Sausage, Tough Knees, Teat Tease and Mr. Stiffy.
“You have absolutely no say in your name,” said Christine, who will henceforth be referred to by her hash name “Slip ‘n Swallow” or just Slip. “The kennel picks it. It’s a rite of passage.”
Some get unfortunate names, for unfortunate reasons. One guy in SOH4 was named “Chunks and Dunks” a few weeks ago. There’s a hasher in Rochester named “Diarrhea” because “he’s fast.”
John Cressey was hash-baptized as “Pubic Offender” after he was nearly arrested for drinking in public with an open container during the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon.
Many people in SOH4 know each other only by their hash names. They wear nickname necklaces, strung together with the kind of alphabet beads you see on middle school girls. And they wear them proudly.
Serious Runners vs. Serious Drinkers
Slip, who ran her first 5K race in 2011, doesn’t consider herself a “serious runner.” In fact, she said, several people on the team don’t regularly run in organized races.
In fact, don’t even call this a team.
“A team makes us sound way too organized,” Slip said. “This really is all word-of-mouth and availability. There’s no attendance. There’s no order. It is what it is. As long as the hares show up, that’s all that really matters. And the beer. As long as there’s beer.”
Attendance ebbs and flows at hash runs. Sometimes five people show up for a hash, sometimes 50 do. And a wide variety of people come to hashes for a wide variety of reasons.
“There are people who are training for their first run and there are marathoners,” Slip said. “We have a lot of people who just do it as a way to feel OK about drinking as much beer as they do. And there’s people who just like to come out and meet new people.”
Despite their slogan “drinking club with a running problem” is a funny slogan, people who don’t drink still come. There’s water and soda at every beer stop on the hash.
SOH4’s sister kennels in Rochester and Ithaca gave Syracuse pointers when it restarted. One tip Syracuse adopted from its sisters — keep hashing off Facebook.
“Everything is on Facebook today,” Slip said. “Sometimes you want something where you don’t need to explain it everybody.”
But it certainly doesn’t mean hashers have trouble [finding] each other.
Peter Dady a.k.a. Kickstand has been hashing for about three years and likes how he can find hashes nearly anywhere.
In Central New York, Kickstand bounces between Syracuse and Ithaca kennels. He went one day early to a Seattle trip last week so he could hash with the Puget Sound Hashers. He’s hashed in Denver when he visits his son in Colorado.
“They’re accepting,” said Kickstand, who hails from Cortland, N.Y. “Once you tell people you’re hashing, you can come into the group and they just embrace you.”
Who does this?
According to the SOH4 website, these are the people you can expect to meet at your first hash:
- People in worse shape than you.
- People who drink more than you.
- People who sing more stupid songs than you.
- People who tell more dirty jokes than you.
- Your new best friends.
Pubic Offender says hashing is for people who have a sense of adventure, a sense of humor and who don’t take themselves too seriously.
Slip calls the Syracuse kennel the most eclectic group you could see.
“You’re talking about people who are lawyers, doctors, engineers and highly-respected individuals,” she said. “And they’re down to drink and run and tell dirty jokes just as much as anybody else.”