Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Hashing all over the world

Edgar O’Neill is a proud member of the international ‘drinking club with a running problem’

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 15:45


Edgar O’Neill

Almost five thousand people, young and old, men and women, descended on Hainan island in southern China in March for a few days of running and drinking. They were attending the Interhash, a biennial event for hashers around the world.

A hasher, for the uninitiated, is a member of a “hash” club which assemble usually once a week and run or walk around a trail that has already been marked out with powder or some other means, and when that’s over drink beer. I was in Hainan Island then with my wife and met many old friends who I had “hashed” with in different countries in the past as well as making new friends.

Hashing is a great way to meet people in an informal way, wherever you happen to be. In Hainan I met one Irish girl, originally from Galway, now an expatriate based in Penang. Later we passed through Vietnam and I joined the hash run in Ho Chi Minh City. We were bused out to a scenic rural area where we ran through a rubber plantations then later imbibed the local Vietnamese beer.

One hasher originally from Cavan, now longtime Vietnamese resident, was prominent in organising the proceedings.What surprises me, however, are the very few Irish people I generally meet hashing. One would think that an activity that combines a bit of exercise with drinking beer would attract more of us. I think its simply ignorance of the hashing movement which explains why more Irish are not involved.

Hashing is not generally well known because it’s not promoted. Third parties can’t make a quid out of promoting it like other activities. It’s a completely voluntary movement world-wide, with no admin overheads, so it costs little or nothing to participate.

Hashing was originally confined to expatriates working overseas. It first started in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia in the 1930s, among a group of British colonial officers who devised it as a means of getting some exercise before joining together for a beer. It is still popular with expats everywhere, especially in the Far East. However, it has spread to most countries around the world under the umbrella of the Hash House Harriers, an international group of non-competitive running social clubs.

In Ireland there is a hash club in Dublin which I ran with in the past. The last time I ran with them, we finished up at a lively party at the abode of a US embassy official. They now run every Monday evening at 7.30pm and the starting point each week is shown on a map on their website.

In London there is a terrific hash scene. There are a number of clubs, running almost every night. I have run there often and it’s a great way to see nooks and crannies of London that you might not normally see. There is also a weekend hash when they often visit scenic suburban areas. The City London Hash is a well organised one, often with themes for a particular run, like the Shakespeare run which they had recently.

Wherever you happen to be based in the world there is likely to be some hashing activity within reach. If interested, you are a Google search away from finding out.

The hash may not be everyone’s cup of tea and by no means everyone takes to it. After a run, we come together and form a circle where irreverent fun is the order of the day. Hashers are fined or charged for misdemeanors caused, imaginary or otherwise, and are given a “down-down”, ie a glass of beer which must be drunk in one go. We are all given names or “handles” which are normally humorous, and/or rude, or even slightly obscene. You must have a sense of humour. You can poke fun as much as you like, so long as you don’t mind being ridiculed in return. Political correctness is a big no no.

The level of fitness, and people’s age, varies greatly from one club to another. Usually a hash club consists of both runners and walkers. Generally hashers are older – over 40 – but by no means all. And there are some hashers who don’t drink alcohol at all.

The next big event on the hash calendar is the Brussels Beer Odyssey Interhash 2014 which takes place from July 23rd to 27th. The organisers promise 25,000 litres of best Belgium beer for the event, and more than 2,000 have already registered.  See

Edgar O’Neill lives on Luzon Island in the Philippines with his wife. He has written previously for Generation Emigration about how the Philippines is a great retirement home.