Drink and Dash in Dongguan

Dating back to 1938, the globally renowned sporting social club, hash house harriers, indeed now exists here in Dongguan. Get your running shoes at the ready for this memorable and non-competitive sport.

As outdoor social activities go, drinking and running sounds like a bad combination. They’re often referred to as, “A drinking club with a running problem.” Someone sets out before the main run. The hare, as they call this lead scout, sets a trail. The voluntary hare marks trees, street signs, perhaps abandoned Mobikes or anything fixed with chalk clues. Arrows mark a route to follow. At some of the marked gathering points (a circle with a cross inside), runners, aka hounds are sent in multiple directions to find the next pathway. The runner that discovers the right way shouts, “On, on.” The way forward could be north, south, east or west or many of the other 356 angles. Jogging, running and walking is permitted. Keeping up is a bit like the movie Blackhawk Down, “Leave no man behind!” although in “HHH” (Hash House Harriers), all variations of gender are welcomed. Even well-behaved dogs can join in. I recall one runner, John Reed, telling me, “We keep going until everyone is reconvened at the checks,” after I’d asked if the Dongguan Hash Harriers had ever lost anyone.

The history of this sporting social dates back to 1938. It originated in Malaysia. It started with simple intentions, “To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer”—and to make older members of the clubhouse it was named after, think “They are not as old as they feel.” Jolly good. They have spread to almost every corner of the earth, including Guangdong—particularly our fair Dongguan city.

All shapes and sizes of people can be found. The thing that seems to matter most is being merry.

To join, grab a pair of running trainers, tatty or new, some suitable old sportswear and somewhere safe to keep any valuables. Off you go. No need for anything special. This is a no fills, no nonsense pursuit. Bring your communal self. Usually all costs are shouldered by the Hashers. The recommended Hashcash is around 30 RMB per session. That covers any taxis to a starting point, drinks and sometimes even food. They’ll leave you feeling in high spirits, but if you like a glass of booze, it is best to leave having had one for the road.

This is a great way to stay fit, gain an alertness that is so often tied to general running and fitness, and most importantly to have fun. Each run ends, often with drinking and a good meal. Dongguan’s group was started by Liam Donnelly and has been overseen by many leaders. The current lead scouts are Rob and Megan Covert. As with all Hashers, they are about inclusion. All shapes and sizes of people can be found. The thing that seems to matter most is being merry. Numbers have grown from five initially to 40 or so in recent years. I was unlucky enough to miss their mid-December run, but could see a sizeable-crowd pulling away from One for the Road in Dongcheng.

The Hashers have wit at hand. There are punishments for the route-planning hares. There are jokes, nicknames and banter galore. It is a jolly and expansive activity bringing together exploration of the city and parks, alongside a knee’s up. If disruption occurs, expect a castigation. New to the run? Expect a penalty. The good thing is, the punishments aren’t humiliating and not about only drinking. For an hour and a half or so, they’re moving. Afterwards, they are laughing and smiling. With red dress hashes, matching t-shirts, trips to other hash runs, and the Olympics equivalent, the sporting event always presents variation for a dynamic activity.

Each run is different, taking in scenery, the odd farm pathway, lakes, islands and sometimes ups and downs like steps or hills. The hares who set the course are the planners. As a hound, you are the surprised and worry-free follower. Unless, of course, you attend enough runs to become the hare. Volunteers are cheered and celebrated, just as the followers are too.

You can join HHH runs in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, at a provincial and a national level or closer to home: the challenge waits for you in sunny Dongguan. On, on…

To join the Dongguan Hash Harriers contact us at editor@heredg.com and we will connect you.