After living in Spain for nearly six years, I felt that I should make at least one friend who wasn’t a bartender. So I went to Expatica’s website
, scrolled through the “Clubs & Groups” listing, and noticed an interesting entry: The Madrid Hash House Harriers
This looked intriguing. So…I did a bit of research.
It turns out that the Hash House Harriers is a world-wide network of running/drinking/social clubs that’s largely populated with lonely expats from English-speaking countries. It was founded in 1938 by a group of British civil servants stationed in Kuala Lampur that sought to promote health and fitness via weekly organized runs…and then to sabotage those benefits by guzzling copious quantities of beer immediately thereafter. They decided to form a club around this yin-yang activity, and the rest—as they say—is history. Today, there are more than 1,200 Hash House Harrier clubs scattered throughout 160 countries—including six in Spain (i.e., Madrid, Barcelona, Rota, Mijas, Malaga and Mallorca).
By the way…the term “Hash” has nothing to do with hashish. It refers to the abysmal food that was served at Kuala Lampur’s Royal Selangor Club, where the founding members lived. My apologies to those study-abroad university students whose heart rates I may have inadvertently elevated during the prior three paragraphs.
Anyway…a few Saturdays ago, I donned my Nike® trainers, blew the dust from my much-neglected social skills and drove to a “Hash.” Promptly upon my arrival, I was greeted (in English!) by a friendly group of nuts with names like “Clutching Hand,” “Sex Mex,” “Razor” and—my personal favorite, although I still don’t have the nerve to call her this to her face—“Bird Shit.” Apparently, all members are given a Hash Name. I’ve not yet received mine, although I might propose something like “Man in Search of Book-deal.”
The Hash itself is divided into three phases: the run, the Circle, and the On-after.
The run (usually between 5-12 kilometers) takes place in a different location each week, and is modeled on the concept of hounds and hares. The “Hare” (i.e., the person organizing that week’s run) marks a trail with dots of flour that the Hashers are expected to follow. But it’s not quite so easy. The dots often wind through forests, up hills and across streams. Further complicating matters, the Hare frequently leads the runners down a series of false trails. This is done not only for the Hare’s amusement, but also to allow the walkers and slower runners to catch-up with the faster ones.
After the run, all members proceed to The Circle. The Circle—which can last from ten minutes to the half-life of uranium—is a mechanism designed to punish those Hashers who committed grievous offenses during the run. Offenses include racing, wearing new shoes, taking shortcuts, and (as you might’ve guessed) being a first-time Hasher. The punishment for these (and other real, imagined, written and unwritten offenses) is known as a Down-Down—i.e., being handed a cup of beer which must be poured down the hatch or over the head.
After The Circle, Hashers proceed to the On-After…which is either a picnic (in summer) or lunch at a nearby restaurant.
It’s all great fun, and an effective tonic for quelling the occasional pang of homesickness. If running isn’t your cup of tea, then there are plenty of other expat clubs throughout Spain that cater to an array of interests; whether popular or esoteric. You’d be amazed at the variety once you start looking.
But I’m no longer looking, because I’ve found mine. The only problem is…how do I tell my parents back home that I’ve become addicted to Hash?