Hashers at a "photo check" on trail.

Hash House Harriers – An Arkansas Story

Fleet Feet Little Rock

The Hash House Harriers, “A drinking club with a running problem” has a long history in Arkansas

Hash House Harriers (HHH) is an international social and recreational running club that originated in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1938. The club was founded by a group of British colonial officers and expatriates who wanted to establish a way to burn off the excesses of their indulgent lifestyles.

Legend has it that an English officer, Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert, also known as “G,” formed a running club with other expats. They decided to call themselves the Hash House Harriers after the Selangor Club Annex, also known as the “Hash House,” where they often gathered to eat. The term “Harriers” was taken from the traditional cross-country running clubs in the United Kingdom.

The inaugural run took place on December 1938, with Gispert serving as the first “Hare” (the runner who sets the trail) and the other members as the “Hounds” (the runners who follow the trail). The run was organized as a paper chase, where the Hare laid a trail of paper marks for the Hounds to follow. The trail was designed to be a mixture of running and socializing, with breaks for refreshments along the way.

During World War II, the Hash House Harriers went on a hiatus, but it was revived in 1947 by Gispert and other members who survived the war. The club gradually expanded and gained popularity among the expatriate communities in Southeast Asia. In the 1960s, the club started spreading to other parts of the world as expatriates and military personnel brought the concept back to their home countries.

Hashing is known for its non-competitive, laid-back nature and its emphasis on fun and socializing. The runs often involve humorous traditions, such as assigning members with unique nicknames and incorporating drinking stops along the trail. These traditions vary from hash to hash, as each local chapter has its own unique culture and customs.

"Chalk Talk" The hare explains to runners what all the trail signs mean before each run.
“Chalk Talk” The hare explains to runners what all the trail signs mean before each run.

Most hash runs involve following trails created by the “hare” using chalk, small piles of flour, and toilet paper. The hare will create dead ends and other tricks to help the slower runners keep up with the faster runners. This way participants tend to finish around the same time so everyone can enjoy songs and drinking games together.

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Today, Hash House Harriers can be found in numerous countries around the world, with thousands of local chapters known as hashes or “kennels.” The club has grown into a global phenomenon, with regular hashing events, interhash gatherings, and even regional and world hashing championships. It has become a popular way for people of all ages and fitness levels to combine running, camaraderie, and a sense of adventure. A favorite description of the hash is “A drinking club with a running problem.”

Hashes can be urban or rural or both. You never know what you will see.
Hashes can be urban or rural or both. You never know what you will see.

Hashing in Little Rock

The Little Rock Hash House Harriers was founded in 1974. It is one of the oldest continuously active Hash chapters in the United States. It was founded by a group of former military personnel who had been introduced to the Hash while stationed in other parts of the world. The first run was held on August 1974, and the club has been hosting at least one run a week ever since. In August of 2024, the Little Rock HHH will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The Hash is a non-competitive club, and the emphasis is on having fun. The runs are held on Wednesdays and Sundays, and the trails can vary in length and difficulty. There are also social events held throughout the year, such as the annual HashFest Red Dress Weekend.

It's not all running, sometimes it's just scrambling.
It’s not all running, sometimes it’s just scrambling.

The Little Rock HHH is a great way to meet new people, get some exercise, and have a lot of fun. If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit the club’s website or contact them through their social media pages.

Besides conducting hash runs, Little Rock Hash House Harriers also support runs like the Arkansas Traveller 100, the Ouachita Trail 50, and Race the Base, among others.

Hashers at a "photo check" on trail.
Hashers at a “photo check” on the trail.

Hashing comes to Northwest Arkansas

A couple of weekends ago we attended the Northwest Arkansas Hash’s first anniversary of their newly revitalized kennel. There have been Hash runs in NW Arkansas for years, but the kennel has not been consistently active. The Hare for this run originally came from the Little Rock kennel. The run was long and hot, it included scrambling up some rock, bushwhacking off trail, running up a creek, and a proper beer check (stop running in the middle of the course and have a beer, water or soda, then continue). The photos in this story are all from that run.

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A Hash Chapter is healthy for any running community giving a non-competitive outlet for runners, creating a strong social network for local runners, and giving back to the local running community through race and event support. We look forward to seeing the NW Arkansas Hash grow.

There is also a kennel in Hot Springs where the Little Rock HHH conduct the annual HashFest Red Dress Run.

Cooling off with a creek hike.
Cooling off with a creek hike.

Is the Hash right for you?

Hash House Harriers is a social running club with a focus on drinking and having fun, so it’s not right for everyone. Here are some factors to consider before deciding if hashing is right for you:

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  • Your fitness level. Hashes can be challenging, so you’ll need to be in reasonably good shape. However, there are hashes for all fitness levels, so you don’t have to be an elite runner to participate. Oftentimes there are participants who choose to walk all or most of the trail.
  • Your sense of humor. Hashing is all about having fun, so you’ll need to be able to laugh at yourself and enjoy a bit of raucous atmosphere.
  • Your drinking tolerance. Hashes typically involve a lot of drinking, so you’ll need to be able to hold your liquor. However, you don’t have to be a drinker to participate. (drinking is encouraged, not mandatory)
  • Your social skills. Hashing is a social activity, so you’ll need to be comfortable interacting with a group of people. An open mind is helpful as very few comments are off-limits.

If you think you might be interested in hashing, I recommend checking out a local hash meet-up. For the LR Hash, the Wednesday night “Humpin Hash” is a good introduction. This will give you a chance to see what it’s all about and meet some of the people who participate.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind about hashing:

  • Hashes are non-competitive. There are no winners or losers in hashing, so you can relax and enjoy the run.
  • Hashes are all-inclusive. Hashes are open to people of all ages, genders, and fitness levels.
  • Hashes are a great way to meet new people. Hashing is a great way to make new friends and have some fun.
Getting ready for "circle" after the hash.
Getting ready for “circle” after the hash.
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