What is Hashing?

The Trail:

The Hash is based on an old schoolboys game called Hounds and Hares. In the present day form the Hares head out well ahead of time (a dead lay) or with a 15 minute head start (live lay) with a sack of flour and perhaps some strips of paper. Every 100 yards or so the hares throw down some flour or paper (the 'hash') to indicate the trail they are taking.

The catch is that the hares can set down multiple different trails, only one of which has to be 'true' trail. So as you follow a succession of hash marks you will eventually run into a check (a circle with an 'X' in it). A check point has multiple trails emanating from it. If you follow one of the trails and shortly run into three parallel lines on the trail then you have taken a 'bad' or 'false' trail and have to go back to the check.

If the someone finds a trail that has multiple successive hash marks they will whistle, or yell 'on on' to indicate that they think they've found the 'true trail'.

Alternatively you may run into a 'back check' which is just a circle on the ground. Somewhere between the 'back check' and the last conventional check will be a trail heading off laterally from the trail you've been on.

Back checks, checks, and bad trails are designed to give the Hare a chance to get away (there are various embarrassing punishments for being a caught hare, depending on which city you hash in). These devious trails also have the effect of slowing up the faster runners and causing the pack of hounds to regroup as it were. Thus, on a well laid hash the slowest jogger may arrive at the Beer Stop at the same time as a fast runner.

Aaahh, the Beer Stop! Most trails have a BS (Beer Stop) midway through the trail, soon after you see a BN (Beer Near) mark on the trail. The BS gives the hounds a chance the re-hydrate (beer, soda & water) and begin cursing the hare for having dragged them over steep hills, narrow trails, and across creeks.

While not all trails are off-road it is encouraged, and it means that you will 'discover' not only a lot of great future running/hiking sites for your own use, but you'll undoubtedly see a lot of area's that you would never have otherwise seen. Collectively, off-road trail is known as 'shiggy', and the shiggy can range from manicured park trails, to deer trails, to mud or creeks. The shiggy in California is fairly tame for most parts of the year (mud and water in the winter).

After the beer stop and the second half of the trail you will reach the On-In which is the end point. Most California hashes are A to A, which means they finish where they started, though you may have run in so many circles that determining the start location is only a fleeting abstract thought.

The Hash Marks:

Hare Arrow Hare Arrow - The trail goes this way. Back Check Back Check - True trail is somewhere between here and the last check.
Pack Arrow Pack Arrow - The pack went this way. False False Trail - You are on the wrong trail.
True Trail Three Marks - True trail. Check Check - The trail is somewhere within 100 yards.
BN Beer Near- The Beer Check is near. On In On-In - The end is near.

The On-In and Circle:

There are three primary components to the Hash: the trail, the On-In, and the On-On-On.

The On-In is the end of the trail where the Hares are honored (or cursed) for their efforts and others may also be honored for acts of distinction whilst on the trail, or for being a visiting hasher or a new ('virgin') hasher. The 'honors' are being handed a glass of beer (or other beverage) to drink in one go while being serenaded with slightly less than tasteful songs, sung by the rest of the hashers (the 'circle'). The cirle is run by the RA (Religious Advisor - this is just a tongue-in-cheek moniker, as we are in no way 'religious') and/or the GM (Grand Master - the person who gets the blame for how things are run). The RA may punish (same thing as being honored) any person for sins against the hash, such as wearing new shoes, acting competitively, or just about anything the RA likes (this often backfires with the RA downing the beer at the insistence of the pack). The circle does not typically go on for very long before either an On-On-On location is announced (a place to go have some food) or if the weather and location are appropriate we set up a BBQ to continue drinking and have something to eat.

What You Need to Hash:

Probably the most important thing you need to enjoy a hash, is a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself. Some people find the hash to be juvenile or offensive. In our defense - we probably are both.

  • The hash can be on fairly rough terrain that may be wet so don't wear your best running shoes (besides which if they are deemed to be new you may have to drink out of them).
  • Bring a spare change of clothes and shoes for afterwards.
  • If you are allergic to Poison Oak/Ivy you may want to wear tights and/or bring some Tecnu to wash off with afterwards - just in case.
  • Your first hash is free, after that it's $5 for beer and munchies. Bring extra cash for the On-On-On. Have a road map in your car: many hashes start at out of the way places that are hard to find without a map.
  • If you have a whistle on a lanyard bring it. This is a handy communication tool if you get separated from the pack, and is also a good place to keep your spare car key.

Who Are Hashers - Running Lunatics?

We've been called worse. The one thing that the hash is not is uniform in it's composition. The East Bay hash usually has between 10 to 40 people show up for any given hash, and has a group of perhaps 100 people who come out with any regularity.

The packs are typically 15 to 30 men and women, with ages ranging from 21 to 70. Running abilities range from barely moving (12 min/mile - a fast walk) to speedsters (6 min./mile). Members come from all walks of life (from construction workers to academics) though we don't tend to talk much about what we do for a living, or even necessarily what are real names are - everyone gets a nickname after a few hashes.

Some of the East Bay nicknames include: Little Johnson, Splat, Butt-Floss, Cupcake, Almond Joy, Blowin' Zydeco, Full-of-Shit, Excess, Early-to-Bed, 7 Veils, Good Eats, Spanky - you get the idea. If you want to know what the average or median hasher is: a 45 year old male who is 1/3 of the way through a sex-change, who is a clerical worker moonlighting as a surgeon, who has a sexual preference for anything that moves. He/She has a fledgling beer gut (or at least he thinks it's only fledgling) and spits when he/she talks, especially after drinking too much - which is usual. Not someone you'd invite over at Christmas - unless you too were a hasher.