Who Are The Hash House Harriers?

Every week, as I’m putting up the ‘What’s On” listings on ScillyToday, I’m drawn to a regular event.

Scilly Hash House Harriers. Fun run or jog. 11.30am from Hugh House on the Garrison.

Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the “fun run” bit, I’d guess they were a cookery club. Or maybe a bunch of bird watchers.

So, on a grey, gloomy Sunday morning I decided to trudge up to Hugh House and find out who these mysterious “Harriers” actually are. And I arrive to find something of a party atmosphere going on.

There are about ten people of all ages here and, while a few look like serious runners in the latest hi-tech gear, the rest certainly don’t fit the bill.

This morning, they have a special guest joining them. Janet Sturmer started the Scilly Hash House Harriers in 2003 when she was living on St Mary’s with her husband Colin, the former Duchy Land Steward, and she’s taking the opportunity to catch up with the group during a visit to the Islands.

She told me the original Hash House Harrier group was started in the Far East around 65 years ago by a group of British civil servants who “wanted more exercise than sipping gin and tonics in the sun.”

From Radio Scilly

Hear Janet Sturmer and Trevor Kirk talking about the Hash House Harriers

They were named after the restaurant in the Selengor Club in Kuala Lumpur, where they were billeted, which was nick-named “The Hash House” because of it’s reportedly monotonous food and their aims, written in their original constitution, includes “getting rid of weekend hangovers” and “persuading older members that they’re not as old as they feel.”

The runs follow a traditional “paper chase” style, with a trail being left by the organisers – Janet had a bottle of flour in her hand, which she’d just used to lay a trail for the runners.

The Harriers have some interesting traditions.

Janet says every runner has a “Hash” name. Hers is “Mother Hen” while current organiser, Jill Osborne, is called “Grand Mattress” although her usual name is “Licky Sticky Stampy”. Jill works in the Post Office.

And it seems I’m not the only one who doesn’t know what the Harriers do.

Some chapters hold an annual “Red Dress Run”, which started after a new member was invited to a meeting in San Diego, but turned up wearing a red dress, not knowing they were a running group. She gamely went on to run the circuit in the dress, and the tradition spread worldwide, with both men and women turning up for the race in red dresses.

Trevor Kirk is a regular Harrier and says they go out irrespective of the weather.

There’s no competition – entrants can run, jog or walk as they please – and Trevor says it’s all about the social aspect. They’ve had all ages join them, from 2 to 70 years old!

He says the route has stopping points where the faster runners stop and wait for the slower ones to catch up and added it’s a great way to see the islands.

So if you fancy a fun, social run at the weekend to clear away the cobwebs, or maybe the hangover from the night before, you can catch up with the Hash House Harriers every Sunday at 11.30am in the winter, and Thursday at 7.00pm in summer. Details will be in our What’s On pages.