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Story highlights

This run club has more than 2,000 active chapters around the world across 184 countries

Runs range from 3 to 6 miles and end with traditions involving songs, beer and good cheer

(CNN) —  

Nearly every week for the past 36 years, Peter Remsen has connected with his tribe.

He is a member of the Hash House Harriers, a subculture whose members unite through a shared love of running, exploration and, perhaps most important to them, drinking beer.

The run club says it has more than 2,000 active chapters around the world, across 184 countries. Anyone can join any group, running as little or as often as they choose.

No matter where you do it, each event, or “hash,” follows a similar format. A leader appointed by the group, called the “hare,” blazes a trail across all types of terrain ranging from woods and rivers to streets and shopping malls. Later, the rest of the group, the “hounds,” take off in hot pursuit, following the improvised trail usually fashioned in flour, chalk and tissues hanging from trees. The trails often range from 3 to 6 miles and end with a set of traditions involving songs, beer and good cheer.

“One interesting aspect of hashing is, you meet folks you’d never meet any other way,” Remsen said. “And you see places you’d never see any other way. I’ve met bank presidents and airline pilots and doctors, and folks with doctorates in esoteric degrees. And also, you’ve just got run-of-the-mill folks.”

Peter Remsen's Hash club in Tokyo in the 1980s. He is wearing a jacket and squatting in front.
Courtesy Peter Remsen
Peter Remsen's Hash club in Tokyo in the 1980s. He is wearing a jacket and squatting in front.

Remsen, 73, started running hashes in 1980, in Pittsburgh. Soon, he had moved to Tokyo where he continued running with a local group there. He has now hashed in 13 countries across four continents.

Today, he leads the Pinelake Hash in Atlanta, where he has run over 700 of the more than 2,000 hashes he has logged.

“The only thing we all have in common,” Remsen said, “is that we’re all fairly athletic.” Nowadays, though, Remsen walks most of the trails, so even athleticism can hardly be considered a requirement.

Members often joke that Hash House Harriers is a “drinking club with a running problem,” so competition or racing is frowned upon. Runners who show up to events clad in 5K race t-shirts are labeled “race-ist.”

Within his tribe, however, Remsen is known by a different moniker: “Shiggy Pits,” which he says is “hash jargon for a muddy area.” Most people, he said, earn their hash name after their fifth trail.

The hash name traditions are so deeply entrenched in the culture of the groups that many do not actually know the real names of other members. Calling someone by their real name on a trail can carry a “penalty,” often involving drinking more beer at the end.

Peter Remsen, 73, started running hashes 36 years ago.
CNN
Peter Remsen, 73, started running hashes 36 years ago.

“A lot of the hash traditions are the same as rugby traditions,” Remsen said. “And so at the end of the trail, we drink a lot of beer and sing silly songs. It’s utterly childish, and that’s a lot of the attraction.”

The group can trace its origins to 1938, when British expatriates and soldiers posted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, played a game called “hare and hounds,” and culminated with eating in a local restaurant they called the Hash House.

The group formalized its first Constitution in 1950, and its founding remains intact today. “To promote physical fitness among our members … get rid of weekend hangovers … acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer … [and] persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel.”

The second group was founded in 1962 in Singapore, and by the 1970s, there were 50 groups operating in 14 nations.

Today, major cities from Atlanta and Washington to Sydney and Bali, Indonesia, have numerous hashes that meet nearly every day of the week.

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David Lampp, who goes by the hash name “Ballerina Booty Boy,” felt that the “no-rules” nature of hashing was central to its magic and kept him coming back for hundreds of hashes since he joined in 2007.

“I mean, there are some things here that might be a little offensive to some people, but not to others,” Lampp said. “So come here, relaxed, with an open frame of mind. And the most important thing is, have a great sense of humor.”