Some folks have no shame.

Some folks think nothing of trading pride in for a prom dress, a glam rocker wig and a pair of worn sneakers.

And in broad daylight – in plain sight of children and the elderly – those prom dress-wearing people will run.

Locals may have seen the Portland contingent of the Hash House Harriers trailing through downtown streets in dresses, crooked tiaras and smudged lipstick. And that was just the fellas.

Known as “a drinking group with a running problem,” the Hash House Harriers has been around for decades, bringing its unique brand of socialized running to bigger cities all over the world. And weirding out the neighbors.

Portland’s own hashing faction is young by comparison, started two years ago by local Ned Swain, who says his notion of running has always involved a level of antics.

And a collective appreciation of said antics seems to draw out a curious set of people.

“I’ve met so many really great, interesting people,” said Swain, organizer and “mismanagement” of Portland Hashers. “People that aren’t uncomfortable putting on a stupid costume and running through the streets of Portland.”

Not every run is themed, although the group’s two-year anniversary hash last weekend was celebrated with a hash full of red dresses.

And while every run does include running, that shouldn’t scare off the joggers and walkers. “You really don’t have to be that fast a runner. You don’t really have to run at all,” said Swain. “It’s about as non-competitive as athletics can get.”

Here’s a quick attempt at an explanation: Every trail starts at a local watering hole. A “hare” runs out first, marking a trail along the way. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the pack follows suit, using the markings to guide them. An arrow on the trail points hashers in the right direction. A trifecta of dashes says, “Ha! Wrong way.” Other markings might indicate a “song check” or direction change. 

Those checks give hashers at the back of the pack a chance to catch up (and pant and clutch their quads). The trail ultimately ends up at another local watering hole.

There’s no timing chip. No post-race awards ceremony. No results in the next day’s newspaper. So why would anyone do this?

There’s always the bar to look forward to, of course. And that feeling of accomplishment, if you’re into that sort of thing. But mostly it’s the bar. Drinking isn’t a hashing requirement, but some hashers consider it motivating.

Hashing is also a stellar way to meet new people who share a penchant for the run, a fondness for the drink and an unabashed appreciation for wearing moderately embarrassing ensembles in public.

“It’s a combination of the social camaraderie combined with the slightly off-humor of it,” said Swain.

That includes the unprintable lyrics of the hash songs and the hilariously lewd hash names of most members. It also includes some strange traditions.

“If you wear new shoes, you have to drink out of them,” said Brittany Bugaj, a hasher from Portland whose hash name can’t be spoken in polite company. “I’ve seen someone drink out of roller skates.”

First-time hashers can expect some “slight discomfort,” according to Swain. “Not because of anything that’s being done to them intentionally, just by the whole situation of everybody running and the (sometimes) costumes, the whole dynamic.”

While the basics are simple, hashing has its own set of intricacies – the kind that take more than one hash run to understand. But a hashing novice would be well prepared with some decent shoes (used, unless you want to put your mouth on them), $10 for the bar and a healthy sense of humor.

“It’s a great way to meet people,” said Swain. Besides, he added, nothing makes a group of strangers bond faster than collectively making fools of themselves.

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

[email protected]

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