Pushing through bramble, scurrying down a cement underpass, leaping over a small creek, dashing through the yards of unwitting Washingtonians, the runners race after the "hare" and strain to hear the cries of "On-on!" This seemingly chaotic adventure is actually the organized sport of hashing, an event that's part human fox-hunt, part treasure-hunt.
In hashing, a leader, or the hare, sets a three- to five-mile trail by dropping clumps of flour to mark the way. The rest of the runners, or hounds, race after -- remaining wary of possible false leads. Front-runners let followers know they are on the right trail by yelling "On-on!" to those in the rear. In the end, the red-faced, muddy-legged, sweaty crowd quenches its thirst with the treasure: ice-cold beer.
Hashing, started in the 1930s by British civil servants stationed in Kuala Lumpur, begins and ends with a circle. Here, hashers celebrate birthdays, tease first-timers, "punish" each other for misdeeds such as wearing new shoes and bequeath regulars with bawdy nicknames. The rest of the crowd chants "Drink it down, down, down, down . . . " as the hasher guzzles beer, then tosses any leftovers overhead. The quirky subculture, whose members bill themselves as "a drinking club with a running problem," finish with a trip to a local pub.
What to Expect: An easygoing camaraderie that's part prank-fest, part frat party -- except there's no pressure to drink (soda and water are available). Hashers are incredibly welcoming, but expect plenty of teasing. If you're easily offended by salaciousness, this crowd's not for you. For those who like the idea of the social scene but haven't huffed and puffed along a running trail lately, don't worry: Walkers are welcome.
What to Bring: Running shoes and workout clothes. You may want to wear knee socks or pants to protect against running through thorns. Do not wear any legitimate race T-shirts, or you'll have to drink it down, down, down, down . . . .
Cost: $3 to $5 to offset the cost of beer and post-run snacks.
D.C. Area Red Dress Hash. dchashing.net/RedDress2004. Men and women don red dresses and race through the city for this annual hash. This year's run takes place Oct. 2. Registration for the event, hosted by Capitol City Brewing Company, opens July 1.
D.C. Full Moon Hash House Harriers. www.dchashing.com/community/fmh3. Hashers gather on or near the full moon for a monthly run. Start time, location and cost vary. Hashers from other groups also attend this hash.
D.C. Hashing. www.dchashing.com. The Web site lists upcoming events, offers a directory of local groups and has a message board.
Everyday Is Wednesday. www.ewh3.com. This twenty- and thirty-something hash group is a big singles scene. Despite the name, the group meets Thursdays at the Tenleytown-AU Metro at 6:45 p.m. $4.
Harrier.Net. www.harrier.net. A primer on hash songs, a guide to trail marks and hashing history.
Mount Vernon Hash House Harriers. www.dchashing.com/mvh3. This group of Northern Virginia hashers takes its running a little more seriously than others (though it does include walkers). It meets Saturdays at 10 a.m. $5.
White House Hash House Harriers. www.dchashing.com/wh4. This organization, made up of men and women 21 and older, meets at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays from Memorial Day to Labor Day and at 3 p.m. on Sundays after Labor Day. The group runs all over the D.C. area and tries to choose Metro-accessible locations. $4.