In Singapore there’s a hash run every night of the week, and a kids’ version, Hash House Horrors, too. Never heard of it? Katie Roberts has endless tales of this fun, outdoors experience, after four years of mud, sweat and challenges on hash runs all over the island.
Let’s start with a clarification. While technically hashing is running, it’s permissible to walk – especially for the under-fives, though many of the parents walk, too. Hash House Horrors is not competitive, and, aside from fitness, the primary reason families venture out into the heat on a Sunday afternoon is for their kids to have fun while developing a sense of direction and learning to appreciate their surroundings.
The longevity of Hash House Horrors was celebrated at Pulau Ubin earlier this year with a special 800th run – a very big achievement for the group, which started in 1982 and has been meeting every second week since then, whatever the weather. This is the kids’ version of “hashing”, a sport that is believed to have started in Malaysia in the 1930s; there are now thousands of groups across the globe.
So how does it work? A hash starts out at a designated meeting point, near where the “hares” have laid out a trail a few hours earlier. When the cry of “On On” rings out, the group sets off in search of trail markers. Smaller children often need a hand to scramble over logs, rocks, across watercourses, up rocky slopes and down inclines. And the adults may too; there’s many a muddy bottom to be seen at the conclusion of a run. While every hash is very different, the duration of the run is generally 45 minutes to one hour. The terrain can vary from untamed jungle to forest trails, footpaths and even cemeteries!
Longstanding caterer Mr Ho arrives at every location with a hearty dinner, which is followed by ice cream. And Mr Tan brings icy-cold drinks, including a well-earned beer for the adults and soft drinks for the kids. At the end of the run, markers are cleaned up along with all the rubbish, so the hash leaves no trace or environmental impact.
For many kids, the “circle” after dinner is the highlight of the day. New guests are welcomed and milestones awarded, and it’s often followed by games and laughter. Everyone leaves sweaty and muddy, but this is more than outweighed by the authentic sense of accomplishment kids feel after completing a hash run.
Adult hash groups
Monday: Hash House Harriers
(men only, 6pm, hhhs.org.sg)
Tuesday: Seletar HHH
(men only, seletar.hash.org.sg)
Wednesday: Hash House Harriets
(mixed, 6pm, singaporeharriets.com)
Thursday: Thirsdae HHH
Friday: Lion City Hash
(mixed, 6pm, lioncityhhh.com)
Saturday: Dog Hash
(first weekend of the month, 4.30pm, doghash.com)
Sunday: Sunday HHH
(every second Sunday, 5.30pm, sundayhash.org.sg); Singapore Bike Hash (singaporebikehash.com)
Hounds: The runners following the trail.
Hares: The ones responsible for setting the trail.
On On: All runners, and especially the frontrunners, shout “On On” to indicate they are still on the trail – it helps the people behind them.
T-check: A large T on the ground marks a dead-end and a false trail. Runners must “check back” to find the correct trail.
Circle-check: Indicates there is more than one possible route ahead. A large circle on the ground signals the runners to “look around” for markers to pick up the trail again.
Trail marks: Chalk, flour and toilet paper.
Down-down: The traditional guzzle, or scull, of cordial (for kids) or beer (for adults) to mark significant personal milestones – for example, a 10th or 50th hash.
Where and how to join
Hash House Horror runs start at 4.30pm on alternate Sundays. Arrive at 4pm for registration. Quarterly subs are $60 for first child, $50 second child and $40 for subsequent children; insurance is $10 per year. Guests are welcome and pay $20. Dinner is included after each run. Check the website for locations and what to bring. hashhousehorrors.com
This story first appeared in Expat Living’s July 2015 issue.