National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago

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Get to know more about Hashing

Nicki Borde :: Newsday :: 02.09.2019

FROM APRIL 23-26 2020, thousands of international Hashers from more than 75 countries will compete at the World Interhash Trinidad 2020. While most Trinidadians and Tobagonians don't have any idea what Hashing is, it's a growing phenomenon worldwide.

What started in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 80 years ago has spread across the globe, with more than 2,000 kennels or clubs now actively running trails.

The basic principles of hashing are simple. It's all about liming with friends, taking a run through somewhere interesting, be it in the forest, the city or in some remote village and having more then one or two cold beers afterwards. Simple. But there is much more to it than meets the eye.

Hash Kennels are "a drinking clubs with a running problem". That speaks for itself and sets the tone for the weekend adventure or weekly runs closer to towns. Hashers enjoy the exercise of running and definitely the drinking together afterwards, but it's not just a simple run. It's more of a search for the correct path. You can get lost if you don't know the signs to look for.

Trinis hashers use the basic signs for their trails to mislead and or show you the correct paths. These symbols are marked in stripped paper or white powdered flour, as hashers are very eco-conscious. In recent times, the local trail-setters or Hares, have used stripped paper to mark their trails due to the amount of season changes and the abundant rainfall.

Internationally, as you would expect, while the basic symbols have remained the same, other symbols have evolved reflecting the regions where the trails are run, with many kennels creating their own symbols over the years, making it more interesting when hashers visit other kennels.

The run or trail is an adventure. A group of Hashers who set the trails are called the hares. Their role is to set an interesting trail that offers adventure, challenges and fun for the Hashers or Hounds that follow them.

The hares may choose to set the trials before hand, often the day before or few hours before, or do a 'Live Run', which is a run where the hares run ahead of the pack, placing the paper or powder along the route for the hounds to find. The 'Live' runs tend to be very adlib trails, which unfold as the hares run ahead.

The fun starts when the hounds or hash packs set off in pursuit of the trails, with the faster, younger and fitter runners taking the lead from the onset. Resourceful hares try to keep their pack together by setting false trails, sneaky checks or creating innovative loops that force the ambitious forerunners to end up right back on to the original track, often meeting up the slower or more casual hashers, allowing the main pack to finish up at the same time. Not all trails are created the same.

Hashing has been recognised by the International Olympic Committee as the largest non-competitive sport in the world, offering participants of all fitness levels and ages an opportunity to enjoy. It is noteworthy that both locally and internationally, the ages often run from early 20s to late 70s and even some tenacious hashers going on well in to their 80s.

How long is a hash run? Convention has it that an average trail may range from 45-90 minutes, but in the case of the Ball Breaker, set to be staged during the Interhash 2020, that run would be between five to six hours. It will start at St Ann's, through Santa Cruz, the foothills of El Tucuche and end at Maracas Bay.

Other factors can influence the length of any run, depend on the cheekiness of your lead hare. Some trails may take you through mud patches, rivers, swamps, grasslands, or up steep hills. A surprise beer stop in the middle of the rain forest, just to liven things up a bit, is always a welcome feature.

Some trails in other parts of the world offer a 'limbo' pass, where the hounds have to stop and limbo under a fallen tree, or as in the latest Euro Hash staged in Scotland in August, the hounds had to sing a traditional Scottish ballad while guzzling a pint of beer. Other stops have included a conga line or two before heading back on to the final leg of the trail to the Circle.

The Circle. The beginning of the end. This is where the trail ends and the real drinking starts. It's not all sitting back and relaxing though, at least not for the errant hounds or even hares that messed up during the trail. It can be very nerve wracking depending on the Grandmaster or whoever is leading the run.

The level of punishment or rowdiness depends on the traditions of the kennel and may vary drastically. Generally, the Circle consists of the 'Down Down', which is held for misdemeanours that have been noticed or reported to the Grandmaster or the committee by mischievous fellow hashers, who often sell out their their victims to watch them squirm. There is no escape for transgressions real or imagined. Someone has to suffer.

'Virgins' and 'visitors' are always treated to the 'visitor' or 'virgin Down Downs' or anyone else who comes to the attention of the Master, sometimes simply for wearing a new pair of shoes or drinking from the wrong hand. This torture or fun depending on which side you land, can go on late in to the night or end as abruptly as it started. As the Hash has evolved and become less militant, adaptations have become more inclusive, with the introduction of wine for the females, who prefer not to drink kegs of beers all night.

When the picong and torture ends for those unlucky hares, the On On begins. That's when the Hash songs begin, along the lines of bar and rugby songs, which can be quite raunchy. The songs also mirror the regions where the hashers come from.

In a nutshell, hashing is a very social event, that traditionally foreign expats, new to their host country, who use it to meet new people, get to know their host country and get a bit of exercise while they are at it. The World Hashing network is quite extensive, with a multitude of very interactive social media sites that allow members to find each other across the globe. You are never alone when you are an international hasher. All are welcomed, as hash events can be found all over the world, encouraging this well-travelled community to try out new destinations.

In Trinidad, hashing has been in existence for over 38 years and over the years has attracted a younger local crowd, who take to the trails every other weekend, and hit the city streets on Mondays and Wednesdays, of course the lime must go on. Any excuse here in sweet TT.

In 2020 many visitors would get the chance to experience the Trini hash traditions and visa versa, as the hashing world comes to our shores. If you want to join the fun, log on to Interhashtrinidad2020.com and register now. On On!


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Get to know more about Hashing
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A large group of participants at a recent Hashing event

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