Hash House Harriers infiltrate Whitehorse

It was immediately clear the fellow regretted making the comment. He quickly changed the topic and checked around him to see if anyone was listening.

It was immediately clear the fellow regretted making the comment.

He quickly changed the topic and checked around him to see if anyone was listening.

It took a promise of anonymity to coax the guy into continuing.

“The Hash House Harriers are doing a run tomorrow,” he whispered. “You should cover it.”

Then as people approached, he grew quiet again.

Continuously apprehensive, he muttered just one last thing before turning away and leaving: “Wood Street School, 7:45.”

And then he was gone.

Formed earlier this year, the Whitehorse Hash House Harriers (WHHH) is not your usual international running organization.

It operates in the shadows, like a splinter cell.

Around the world, Hash House card-carriers set off from clandestine locations, following highly secretive markings made in flour on the ground to find their group’s meeting spot. (Obsessed with secrecy, the meanings of the markings can only be learned through membership or through a Google search.)

Once at the destination — and sometimes, purportedly, while en route — members of the group then, brace yourself, drink beer.

“It changes every run, every run is at a different place,” said my contact, who I’ve dubbed Deep Woods.

“Whoever’s hosting it decides where it’s going to be.”

Thursday’s run, The Epic A to B Run, the ninth of the season, began at the Copperbelt Railway & Mining Museum on the Alaska Highway. There, 26 runners took to the paths after being dropped off by a school bus.

The runners then followed the symbols into the city centre to a location that cannot be disclosed, due to fear of possible retaliation, such as crabby e-mails.

“Typically it’s a loop; you start and finish at the same place,” said Deep Woods. “This is really unusual; to do an ‘A’ to ‘B’ is an uncommon run.”   

Even within the secret society anonymity reigns supreme.

“Real names are not to be known,” explained Deep Woods. “Once you are given a Hash handle, you’re always known by your Hash handle. That’s to protect the innocent.”

Like with Las Vegas, happenings during the runs and at the meetings stay in the runs and meetings.

“What happens on the hash, you don’t really want to be known for,” explained Deep Woods.   

Even though I constantly introduced myself as a reporter and took many photos of the runners — with a flash — I still managed to infiltrate the group, following its most recent run, drinking cans of beers to help blend in.

At the meeting, as part of its secret rituals, new club inductees had to chug cans of beer while other members serenaded them with a drinking song.

Once they finished their beers, the newbs had to place their cans on their head.

No one was injured.

“You have to have a ‘down-down’ song, to down your beer to,” said Deep Woods. “Each kennel will have a different down-down song. That one we do is pretty common; a lot of kennels use that song.”

Afterwards, the entire group took part in the singing of the Hash House Harriers Anthem, which is basically Swing Low Sweet Chariot with co-ordinated hand gestures, including one too uncouth to describe here.

The run is not competitive, which suggests a communist bent. In fact, Hashers can be reprimanded for racing.

Further evidence of the club being part of a totalitarian regime was found in the draconian punishments handed down for two infractions during the run.

Found guilty of crimes without a trial, two Hashers felt the full wrath of the WHHH, being sentenced to the “Hash Shit,” which consists of sitting in trays filled with ice cubes.   

“New shoes are never allowed on the Hash,” said Deep Woods, referring to the infraction committed by one of the Hashers.

“We run through so much shit and crap that your shoes are going to get wrecked, so new shoes are not allowed.”

The other Hasher punished was caught away from the guest they promised to escort on the run.

The post-run meeting was also the scene of the instillation of a new spiritual leader for the group.

“I don’t know anything about it, but I’ll find out … I’ll try to bring good luck to our regular Hashers,” said the new Hash Buddha, “F.J.”

“They definitely picked the right person. I bring wisdom and good luck.”

The clandestine group likes to protect its members’ identities, but it’s not the Freemasons.

“It not really ‘secretive,’ it’s just anti-establishment,” Deep Woods explained to me, as I helped myself to cream cheese tortilla rolls made by Mrs. Deep Woods.

“The Hash is full of lies. A lot of the time people call it ‘Hash-lies.’ If you can’t remember what happened, you just make-up bullshit.”

The first Hash House Harriers club was started in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, by British colonial officials in 1938.

Since then, thousands of chapters, or “kennels,” have sprung up worldwide.

A kennel has also been established in Dawson City this year, but operates much less frequently.

“They only run during music fests or weekend holidays like Discovery Day,” said a member whose Hash handle is Miracle Whip, of the Dawson kennel.

“It actually gets me running regularly again,” said Miracle Whip, who got his handle by whipping up a WHHH run earlier this year in a miraculously short period of time, speaking of the Whitehorse kennel.

“It’s a fun run with a bunch of good people. (We) socialize and have a few drinks. Like they say: it’s a drinking group with a running problem,” he added.