Hash House Harriers
Ask yourself three questions:
1) Am I willing to run a little bit?
2) Am I willing to drink more than a bit?
3) Am I ready to throw my inhibitions to the wind?
If you answered “yes” to all three, then you should join the International Hash House Harriers (H3), who have a chapter in Portland. Running while drinking isn’t the norm for most people, but the H3 aren’t concerned about what’s considered normal. In fact, breaking free from reality for a few hours is what drives them.
I had the chance to hash once in South Portland from Foulmouthed Brewery with the Knightvillians H3 about two years ago, and it was very clear that it wasn’t your typical pub run. One member had marked points of interest and clues with chalk and flour, and the group set forth to figure out the way. It wasn’t your typical “follow this trail” or “street loop” run that avoids obstacles. We ran through slushy patches of snow in the woods, through busy intersections, and around buildings to get to the beer.
With more than 2,000 members in 185 countries, the International Hash House Harriers have quite a history. “Harrier” comes from a game that English boys would play in the 1800s, consisting of two groups—the hounds and the hares. The “hares” would leave a paper trail for the “hounds” to chase them. Since adults wanted to have fun too no matter the century, adult sport clubs soon formed, some calling themselves “harriers.”
The international drinking club with a running problem formed in modern-day Malaysia by a bunch of spunky English expats in December of 1938 who needed to run off their weekend hangovers on Mondays. Already in the harrier sport, accountant Albert Gispert is credited for founding the organization. The local governments required registration for the club, and Gispert named it after their nasty chow hall, or their “Hash House.” In 1938, their charter listed:
- To promote physical fitness among our members
- To get rid of weekend hangovers
- To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
- To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
A nine-year member and worldly hasher of the Hash House Harriers, “Speed Wanker” (his hashing nickname) said, “We’re different from running clubs, because we’re not a running club. We run incidentally to find beer in the most expeditious manner possible—whether that’s by sprinting through Portland’s Old Port, swimming across the Presumpscot River, slogging through bogs, crawling through drainage pipes, or climbing fire escapes.”
Wet My Bristle, another hasher, said, “I was skeptical at first because I didn’t really understand it; there’s a lot of lingo and ritual involved that can seem like a bit much to a newcomer. But it was pretty obvious from day one that nothing really beats hashing for adding a hint of madcap adventure to your life.” On her first hash in July of 2013, Wet My Bristle downed some pre-mixed 7 and 7s in the woods. Sometimes the hashes can be as creative as a Zelda-themed course where one could smash pots with swords along the way. Almost seven years later, Wet My Bristle can’t imagine a world without hashing. “This community has been a real source of love and support for me, and it’s a big part of what makes Portland home,” she said.
In 2019 throughout Portland, hashers still possess that good thirst for beer, along with a grand sense of humor and adventure. The Knightvillians H3 run out of Foulmouthed Brewery every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. The PorMeH3 clan runs on Saturdays at varying times along more intricate trails. The “hare” of the hash determines the course, knowing how long and what adventures lie ahead. Speedwanker said, “We step out of that pub having no clue what we’re in for, just trusting that it’ll be a good time and we’ll take care of each other.”
Wet My Bristle said, “Hashing is the best drunk adventure you’ve ever had. It happens every weekend, and any day I’m outside running around with my friends is pretty much the best day ever.”
— Text: John Breerwood. John works as an English teacher at Lewiston High School and has worked previously as a brewer for Abita Brewing and Shipyard Brewing.