A “hare” (one or two individuals) sets off running, usually with a previously determined course in mind, while the “harriers” try to catch them before the chase ends and the course is complete. The hare will leave clues, in the form of paper or powder, as to their whereabouts along the trail, occasionally throwing the hound off their scent by strategically averting the pack with “checks”. Runners never know what to expect, or where the course might go, but at least they know there will be a bash, with beer, at the end.
The Hash House Harriers have been around since 1938, originally started by British Expats in Malaysia as a way to ease their weekend hangovers, promote physical fitness, acquire a healthy thirst (quenched by beer) and convince older members that they aren’t as old as they think. Little has changed since the group first began, although these days it might be more likely to induce a hangover rather than cure it. Throughout the 2000+ chapters the rules and traditions are basically all the same, welcoming members of all ages and backgrounds, people from different chapters or newbies alike; and immersing them in the Hash culture, filled with down-downs, onons and quirky drinking songs. As Hashing spread in the 50s, there have since been several different takes on the “sport”, including night running, family runs, all women’s runs, running in dresses, etc etc.
Considering the HHH originated just across the sea, Taiwan’s lax views on alcohol consumption and the maze of streets (or trails) in close proximity, it is easy to understand why Hashing is so popular in Taipei. Northern Taiwan is a Hasher’s paradise, with weekly, biweekly or monthly runs catering to every style. You could fill your calendar with Hash and never have to endure another lonesome training run, although it is questionable whether the “gains” will be you want them. Below are just a few variations that I’ve tried.
China Hash House Harriers
The China HHH focuses on some of the more challenging trail terrain in the area and in my experience, the only way to describe this weekly meeting is with superlatives. It is the loudest, most competitive, most international hash group found in Taiwan. Expect colorful language, frequent checks, lots of beer, sweat and fun. Due to the popularity of this group, they sometimes meet with other chapters on the island for bigger runs, offer weekend trips centered on running/drinking, and occasionally have beer buses to shuttle members to some of the more popular/remote runs on the calendar.
Taipei Night Trail Hash House Harriers
Meeting Friday nights (biweekly) at an MRT station, this group takes advantage of the abundant city trail Taipei has to offer. Bring a headlamp and expect a riot of a good time. Due to their close proximity to residential areas, it is not infrequent for the local authorities to make an appearance and kindly request that the noise is kept to a minimum. The use of headlamps and night running give these courses an extra dose of excitement as you navigate the trail, dodge hanging branches, admire the city views, all while getting a bit lost in the woods.
This all women’s group meet monthly on Saturday afternoons for a city/city trail run. No men are allowed at the runs or at the down downs , except twice a year when they can choose to sport a bikini in order to take part. Between the first runners in and the last, the party lingers at a leisurely pace, most hares offer the use of their shower after the 6-8km run and the choice of wine as an alternative to beer. But don’t take this group lightly, the down downs and bashes are just as much of a party as you’ll find anywhere else.
So if you fancy getting lost in the woods with a group of strangers, who may quickly become close friends over a few hard earned beverages, one of the many HHH groups might just be for you. Check this link for a list of all hash groups island-wide.