Published: Feb 21, 2009 12:30 AM
Modified: Feb 21, 2009 01:10 PM
Monday through Friday, 59-year-old Tom Tune of Durham leads a normal life.
But last Saturday the retail worker put on a dress and donned a different identity as Hilfrigger of the Sir Walter's Hash House Harriers, a self-proclaimed "drinking club with a running problem."
H3 was founded in 1938 by a British expatriate and three other men, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who decided to try running off their Sunday morning hangovers.
The traditional hash is a three- to six-mile course that H3 members, or "hares" (from 18th century English hare and hound racing), mark with white baking flour. The hashers follow it to the finish, or the "on-in," as they call it.
Hashing came to the United States in the mid-70s. Today, "you can go to any major city in the world and find at least one active kennel," Tune said. North Carolina has 16, with four in the Triangle alone.
So where does Sir Walter's typically hash?
"All over! Any place, every place," Tune said.
Typically, runners hash a "shiggy" or any sort of trail "that sticks to your feet, like construction sites, woods, briars, brambles, creeks, tunnels and under highways."
"The dirtier [we] get the happier we are!"
Last weekend's hash was Sir Walter's 12th annual Red Dress Run, a Valentine's Day tradition. One of H3's few urban hashes, it drew 73 participants.
Local hashers cut across age, race and gender lines. Participants include lawyers, librarians and stay-at-home moms, all hashing in blissful unity.
Nicknames -- Hilfrigger, Cheese, and Chicken Man -- were originally used so military officers and enlisted men could run together without being punished for fraternization. Nowadays the nicknames -- sometimes vulgar, though never intentionally offensive -- protect members' secret identities as hashers.
"In our kennel you get your hash name after about six runs [and] a series of embarrassing questions," Tune chuckled.
H3 was founded as an egalitarian society. The object is not to finish first, but to have a good time.
In fact many runners become friends. Tune met his wife, "Photo Spread," hashing in 2002 and enjoys being able to visit other cities knowing there will always be a group of people he can connect with. He calls H3 "a passport into a really large world."
But mostly, Tune says, hashing reminds him of being 12 years old and running through the woods with his friends.
"We would get muddy and dirty, but the whole idea was simply to have fun," he said. "The only difference is now I'm old enough to have a beer at the end!"
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