Hashing: non-competitive sports' 'best-kept secret'?

Parkrun events across the country could be at risk but what do you do if your local run is affected?

Last week, Parkrun UK announced that it may have to delay the relaunch of its weekly events following Covid-19 disruption.

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Blobs of flour are often used by 'Hashers' to set trails. Photo courtesy of Lune Valley Hash House Harriers.

Some events may be forced to cancel for good. So what are the alternatives?

Steve, secretary at Lune Valley Hash House Harriers (or LVH3), filled me in on what he believes is non-competitive running’s ‘best-kept secret’.

“It’s good fun with no pressure to run- you can run, walk or jog,” he said of Hashing.

Lockdown forced Lune Valley Hash House Harriers to cancel runs for only the second time in its 21-year history. Photo courtesy of Lune Valley Hash House Harriers.

But what exactly is ‘Hashing’ and how is it different to the popular Parkrun events?

Steve tells me: “Somebody’s gone and set a trail for you in beautiful countryside and it’s different every time.

“You’ll end up in places you’ve never been before and someone has gone to the trouble to do all that for you whereas with Parkrun you run the same route every week (unless you go to different Parkruns).”

Hashers across the country (and across the world) rely on existing rights of way to lay ‘trails’ for members.

'Hares' who set the trails, rely on public footpaths for their routes. Photo courtesy of Lune Valley Hash House Harriers.

“We stick to public rights of way and roads, there are plenty around here,” says Steve.

Hashing has a long history dating back to 1938 when the first group ran in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and based their activities on British ‘paper chases’ or ‘Hare and Hounds’.

Now, there are groups worldwide, including chapters all over the UK.

LVH3 has been meeting up in smaller groups to follow trails, in line with Covid-19 restrictions. Photo courtesy of Lune Valley Hash House Harriers.

“It’s probably a well-kept secret,” Steve said, “But people come and enjoy themselves, it’s a relaxed atmosphere and there’s a social aspect to it.

“You’re not running out of breath next to somebody trying to have a conversation - unless you want to.

“We have a mixed bag in our hash with people who walk, people who jog, and people who run and there’s different levels of enjoyment for everybody.”

‘Hares’ are responsible for setting a trail of flour or paper which often ends at a pub.

Special symbols indicate whether runners are going in the right direction, if they have found a ‘false trail’ or if they are near to the pub (‘On Inn’).

False trails aim to keep runners of different abilities together as a group, forcing faster runners to find the correct route and therefore slowing them down.

Hashing dates back to 1938. Photo courtesy of Lune Valley Hash House Harriers.

In the past, members of the public who do not know about the Hash have confused trail markers for harmful substances or even anthrax.

However, Hashers use non-toxic markers or flour to set trails which should be no cause for concern.

Most chapters of the international group start and finish their routes at a local pub but Steve - who informs me that his official ‘hash handle’, or nickname, may be too rude to publish - says there is no obligation to stay for a drink and most events are family-friendly.

“We consider ourselves family-friendly and we take account of the people that turn out,” Steve said.

“There’s no obligation to come into the pub- the only thing that people will see are the hash traditions of ‘circling up’ and drinking ‘down downs’ which normally take place outside.”

Covid-19 led to the second cancelled hash in Lune Valley H3’s 21-year history according to Steve- the first cancellation was due to flooding.

Restrictions allowing, the group have still marked out trails but have run in groups of up to six rather than a larger Hash group.

“People have gone out at times of their own choosing in order not to collide with other groups,” said Steve.

Sunday’s (May 23) Hash was the first time the group have been able to set off as one since the start of the pandemic and they ran from the Commodore Inn, Grange-over-Sands.

Steve said that regular Hashers have been turning out more often because ‘they’re desperate to get out and do something’.

Hashing doesn’t have an official governing body, so most groups have to make their own decisions on how to run during times of Covid restrictions.

This ultimately means the runs are still limited to 30 people.

To summarise in Steve’s words: “Hashing is a great way for people of any ability to get out and do something different without thinking too much about it.

“You just turn up.”

More information about Lune Valley Hash House Harriers can be found here or, to find your local Hash, click here.

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