A marathon for runners and drinkers

Posted on 08. Dec, 2009 by in Life & Times, Seasonal

A runner from the New York City Hash House Harriers chugs a beer with just three miles to go in the marathon.

A runner from the New York City Hash House Harriers chugs a beer with just three miles to go in the marathon.

by Erin McCarthy

Just three miles from the New York City Marathon finish line, marathoner David Stewart ran by a group of fans holding plastic red party cups. He grabbed a beer and took a quick swig without even breaking his stride. But he was not the only one running—or drinking—that day.

Stewart is a member of the New York City Hash House Harriers, a local running club. The group set up their cheering section and “drink check” just past mile 23 of the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday. About 30 members, known as hashers, crowded along the curb of Fifth Avenue by 96th Street. The group had been there since 11 a.m. to support their club’s runners and hand out red plastic cups, of either water or beer, as they ran by.

This kind of marathon celebration represented the group’s main passions. “They call it a drinking club with a running problem,” said Andrew Ross, who is a co-chair of the group.

Stewart and 24 other runners from the Harriers were participating in the marathon. Some runners did not stop for a beer, but received applause from their fellow hashers. Peter Trunfio, a hasher since 1994, said runners later in the race would be more likely to imbibe. “The slower people will have more fun with it and stop for a beer,” he said.

The marathoners gave Hash organizers their estimated arrival times at mile 23 so spectators would be ready to give them water or beer, said Ben Weaver, a runner with the New York City Hash since 2002.

The club meets up once a week for the running and drinking event, called the hash. The organizers for that day mark a trail with chalk for the other runners to follow. The rest of the hashers don’t know the route, but do know where it will ultimately lead: to a bar. The trail ends at a bar where runners chip in their “hash cash,” about 20 dollars, to buy food and pitchers of beer. Usually one hour of running is followed by three to four hours of drinking, said Trunfio, who discovered the hash from a friend while training for his first marathon in 1994.

The New York City Hash is one of countless Hash chapters all over the world. A group of British expatriates started the first hash in Malaysia in 1938, and named it after their regular meeting place, the “Hash House.” After World War II, hashes popped up all over the world; hashers can run with other chapters when they travel.

At the marathon, New York City hashers had posted a large foot-shaped sign on a lamppost about 20 feet ahead of them to alert hashers from all over the world of the “drink check.”

“People see that and they know where the beer is,” said Weaver.

20091101_0425Although they weren’t in the marathon, hashers on the sidelines were not left out from running or drinking during Sunday’s marathon. That morning the group ran near the marathon routes and over to First Avenue to see some of the race. This time they did not end at a bar. Instead, by 11 a.m. they were back at the Fifth Avenue sidewalk with coffee, bagels and beer concealed in large red plastic cups.

Wayne Wilson, a visiting hasher from Philadelphia, ran a different route: “I actually ran to my car to get more beer and ran back.”

The hashers said they’d continue their party at an Upper West Side bar after the last of their marathoners had passed the 23rd-mile mark. There the hashers would reward the group’s marathoners with some informal ceremony, songs and “down-downs,” which is hash-speak for beers, said Weaver.

Rajesh Narayana, 38, who works in finance in Manhattan and had a beer concealed in a coffee cup, said the marathon’s culminating festivities would be crazy. The marathoners would be drinking a lot more, he said. As for the spectators: “The people that were drinking will be drinking a lot more.”

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