As a member of the Eugene Hash House Harriers, Steve Massie wakes up every Monday morning with more than just the usual hangover. Occasionally, unexpected woodland diseases accompany him to bed at night. “Poison oak,” says Massie with a groan. “I crawled under an aqueduct tunnel for 200 yards next to Interstate 5 during a run and woke up the next day with a case of poison oak.”
The 40-year-old sign language interpreter was training for a marathon seven years ago when a friend approached him with an intriguing proposition: A drinking club with a running problem. With a mix of false bravado and genuine curiosity, Massie attended his first hash run and was immediately hooked.
Hash House History
In 1938, four English blokes by the names of “Albert,” “G,” “Horse,” and “Torch” came up with the idea of introducing a weekly dose of exercise into their daily routine. The group decided a brisk run followed by a round of high-octane socializing should be established to break up the mundane workweek. Hence, the Hash House Harriers were born.
Today, the organization operates under the motto, “If you’ve got half a mind…that’s all it takes” with more than 1,700 groups, or kennels as they are affectionately called, in virtually every major city in the world. “We have dentists, stockbrokers, teachers…we all have serious jobs during the week and cut loose with runs through the forest to let our hair down a bit,” explains Massie.
“We have dentists, stockbrokers, teachers…we all have serious jobs during the week and cut loose with runs through the forest to let our hair down a bit,” explains Massie.
A hash run is definitely not for serious runners trying to lower their personal bests by a second or two. It’s about fun. One or more hashers (the hares) lay out a running trail marked with white flour, toilet paper or chalk for the rest of the members (the hounds) to follow to a makeshift potluck buffet at the end. Since it’s not a race, there’s no prize to the swift, unless you count the beer at the finish line.
Of course, if you don’t make it to the end of the three-to-five mile course, there are “beer checks” along the trail to keep everyone together. “It’s a social activity but also an opportunity to stay in shape by running,” says Massie. “It’s like killing two birds with one stone.”
A typical day job
After graduating from high school in 1986, Massie moved from New York City to San Francisco to pursue a career as a social worker. Following a long stint working in a cubicle, he decided to explore other options and ultimately fell in love with the process of interpreting. “It’s a challenge every day…knowing how to tailor my words for individual people, “ he comments. “The time goes by so fast when I’m ‘in the chair’ interpreting, and the decisions that happen moment to moment keep it interesting.”
“The time goes by so fast when I’m ‘in the chair’ interpreting, and the decisions that happen moment to moment keep it interesting.”
Massie later earned a degree in interpreting from Portland Community College and eventually pursued a bachelor’s in education with an emphasis on special education and interpreting from Western Oregon University. But he is careful to separate his work as an interpreter during the weekday from that of a “hareraiser” on the weekends.
On a typical day, Massie juggles assignments at Scared Heart Medical Center, Lane Community College and the University of Oregon. “It’s all over the board and I’m running around constantly,” says Massie. Balancing a Venti Starbucks beverage and a shiny Blackberry and wearing head-to-toe black clothing, Massie hardly looks like the average runner epitomized in glossy magazines, but then again neither do his fellow hashers.
The birth of "EH3"
In 1991, “Hugh Mongus” founded the Eugene Hash House Harriers, or EH3, with the goal of uniting people with a silly sense of humor and a fondness for exercise. Since its inception, the group has hosted everything from a Red Dress Pub Crawl to a Super Bowl Hash. For only $5 a hash, participants are guaranteed food, beer and general harassment. “There isn’t much competition,” Massie adds. “Actually, it’s frowned upon when members wear new running shoes or stretch too much.”
“You definitely need a thick skin to take everything that people throw down,” Massie says. “You can either handle the ribbing or you can’t.”
Following his virgin clown-themed hash in 2001, Massie was christened with his hash name, “*itchy the Clown,” via group consensus from his 60 fellow hashers after paying homage to a bedpan simply known simply as “The Sacred Vessel,” drinking warm Pabst Blue Ribbon from said bedpan and enduring an intense round of pestering during “religion”—the group’s official gathering after a run.
Like any organized group, the Hash House Harriers have established traditions and vocabulary to fit their missions and goals. A “Down-Down” requires the drinker to pour the beer over his or her head the moment the mug leaves the drinker’s lips. “You definitely need a thick skin to take everything that people throw down,” Massie says. “You can either handle the ribbing or you can’t.”
A good example was Massie’s first attempt at setting a trail as a hare. Dressed as obnoxious clowns, the group stationed hashers at every bus stop along West 18th Street during a busy weekday. By the time Massie hopped on the bus at the last stop, the driver was positively livid at the prospect of indulging a busload of drunk circus entertainers.
Dressed as clowns, the Eugene Hash House Harriers regroup in the parking lot after their annual hash in honor of the colorful circus entertainers.
Nonetheless, Massie has learned to appreciate the tight-knit crew of hashers that has become his “wacky” surrogate family. Most important, he has learned that life shouldn’t be taken seriously all the time. “Just remember to bring some knee-length socks and gloves for the poison oak,” he adds with a wink.