The whistle blows and I’m off, kicking up cocoa-colored dust as I run along the side of a precipitous hill. To my left, my scrappy dog, Noodle. To my right, a breathtaking view of south-side San Francisco, tinted coral with spillover from the setting sun. But my eyes are fixed on the ground, looking for a chalk-drawn arrow, a trail of flour—anything to indicate that I’m running in the right direction. I look up just in time to avoid crashing into a guardrail. Other runners sail over it like gazelles, but I have to one-foot-two-foot over it while Noodle scuttles underneath. I trip on her leash, then we take off again. Maybe those prerun beers were a bad idea. But it wouldn’t be a Hash without them.
The Hash House Harriers are proudly self-described as “a drinking club with a running problem.” (Related: Fit people party harder, according to a recent study.) Founded in 1938 in Malaysia by a British ex-pat, the Hash now has a beer-soaked presence in more than 1,300 cities in 185 countries. This summer, the San Francisco Hash House Harriers (SFH3) are celebrating their 30th year of running every Monday. I gained entry to this group of wonderful weirdos three years ago. The first Hasher introduced himself to me with a hilarious Hash name too racy to print. Most Hashers go by these filthy nicknames, and the bravado with which they announce themselves is enough to make a girl blush.
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Part scavenger hunt, part keg party, the Hash attracts runners (and drinkers) of all abilities. Participants show up at a predetermined location, grab a beer, and blindly run a course that’s been mapped out by a “Hare.” Along the way we look for chalk marks or piles of flour to indicate that we’re on the right track.
Tonight’s route is, visually, a heart-stopper: winding up a hill through Bernal Heights Park; down to the gritty streets of the Mission; back up to a tiny Diamond Heights overlook. No time to savor the postcard view of the city, though. Noodle and I have separated from the group, though whether we’ve fallen behind or pulled ahead I couldn’t say. All I know for sure is I’ve been running for about an hour. I could be 10 minutes, or 10 miles, from the finish. And the beer. Mmm. Beer.
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I see no one, see nothing but rows of unfamiliar houses and street signs. If you’re with others, getting lost is hilarious. If you’re alone, as I was by now, it can induce anxiety—that same feeling you got as a kid when you realized you’d lost your mom in the grocery store.
Finally, I spot a “BNH”—Beer Near Here—scrawled on the sidewalk atop a set of stairs leading back into Bernal Heights Park. Life is better now.
I join Hashers who have already gathered around a keg and grab two cups—beer for me, water for Noodle. We nibble fistfuls of bright orange snacks while we sip. We sing silly songs to celebrate our finish, and harangue the Hares for laying such a “terrible” trail. Under a creamsicle-colored sunset, I greet fellow runners with hugs and insults, my veins pumping with postrun adrenaline mingled with beer. Every run should end like this.
Surprising Effects of the Post-Run Beer
Run it: Mondays at 6:15 p.m. PT
Thirsty? Try these beer runs in three cities across the United States:
NYC Hash House Harriers
When: Sundays at 3 p.m., Wednesdays at 7 p.m. (summer)
Many clubs have an annual red-dress run, but this club’s takes place on the tourist-packed streets of the Big Apple.
The Dallas Urban Hash House Harriers
When: Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
Attending the most hashes in a row can earn a runner a pair of underwear, signed by all who’ve worn it previously (over their clothes, of course).
Madison Hash House Harriers
When: Saturdays at 5 p.m. (summer), 3 p.m. (winter)
One hasher brews a special batch of his own beer for this Wisconsin club’s annual holiday party.