The following article is a paid collaboration with Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.
To the uninitiated, the Mountain Momma Hash House Harriers (M2H3), may seem like an unorganized horde of people running wild through the streets and trails in wacky costumes.
But they are one of thousands of chapters of a non-competitive running club around the world who celebrate fun, tomfoolery and a moderate amount of fitness, along with the occasional beer.
So, what’s hashing?
A group of British colonial officers and expatriates created hashing all the way back in 1938, in what is now Malaysia. Every Monday night, they’d gather to run together in a game that was fashioned in the tradition of hares and hounds, also called a paper chase. The goal was to rid themselves of the previous weekend's excesses.
The official rules of the Hash House Harriers, as stated in their Constitution (written in 1950) states:
"Its objectives are:
(a) to promote physical fitness amongst its members
(b) to get rid of weekend hangovers
(c) to acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it with beer
(d) to persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel."
Hashing is different from a regular group run, though. It is a game, and a sport in itself, like a scavenger hunt.
There are group leaders, the "hares," who leave chalk or flour arrows and marks through town for the rest of the pack to follow. The rest of the runners, the "hounds," follow the marks to find the beer. Meanwhile, the hares try to throw them off the trail.
The trails are typically about 3 miles long, but length and difficulty are up to the hare. and always end in great spirits, drinking, song— the traditional and iconic markings of merriment. It creates a sense of community, and runners can even earn their own hashing nicknames.
Even though hashing is not traditionally a family-friendly event, this kennel does accommodate people with kids who want to join but not drink, and they even plan stroller-friendly events.
The hash group meets weekly for a non-competitive "fun-run" that ends in a local pub or someone's backyard. They try to keep them to Tuesday and Wednesday, but they can vary, and there are also Full Moon runs.
Once you get involved, there are international events, too, like the annual Red Dress Run, where hashers from around the world run with their kennel on a specific day (different in each city) in a red dress to raise money for a charity of choice. Another fun one is the infamous Ugly Sweater Run, a Christmas tradition.
While the Harriers encourage new hashers to join in on the fun, it can be hard to track down an event without a friend to introduce you, because the starting location is announced by the hare for the run. And since their kennel covers both Charleston and Huntington, it can really start anywhere. But you can track them down on Facebook, too.
Originally written for West Virginia .