Runners limber up for a dash in annual Santa Claus Hash

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 December, 2009, 12:00am

More than 100 people from the city's 13 Hash House Harrier groups put on their running shoes yesterday to raise money for this year's Santa Hash.

For those unfamiliar with hashing, the first runs started in Kuala Lumpur more than 50 years ago when the expatriate community wanted to create a leisurely pursuit involving both socialising and exercise, said Steve Taylor, a Santa Hash 2009 co-ordinator.

Those expatriates came up with an idea based on a 'paper chase', a cross-country race familiar in Britain, Taylor said.

In any hash, there are 'hares', people given a head start to lay a trail with either flour or paper, and 'hounds', a group of trackers who follow the path and sometimes have the added bonus of capturing a hare.

The sporting event is simple and fun. Competition is frowned upon. It is just a day of walking and running - followed by drinks in a 'circle', a gathering in a park or a pub.

'There's no competitiveness in it. There are people of all abilities, all ages, all backgrounds, all ethnicities. The whole thing is just to come together and have a good time,' Taylor said.

The activity had expanded around Asia and the world, and there are now thousands of hash clubs, affording expatriates and locals a chance to meet people and settle in, Taylor said.

Yesterday, the Santa Hash 2009 started at the Sheung Ning Playground in Hang Hau, Kowloon. There were three trails - a short walking path, a seven kilometre run and a 10 kilometre run.

Deric Probst-Wallace, 48, and Mark Hope, 45, were the designated hares, and were given a 15-minute lead to lay trails. Soon, the pack would be trying to close in on them.

Keith Noyes, of the Free China Hash chapter, which organised this year's event, described hashing as 'a poor man's orienteering' or 'a drinking club with a running problem'.

Noyes said: 'We all get a lot of joy out of our social runs in the countryside of Hong Kong ... This is an opportunity to directly fund-raise and give back to the community.'

The Santa Hash had been going since Operation Santa Claus started in 1988, raising money through sponsorships, running fees and raffle ticket sales, Taylor said.

'We all live here and it's always good to help out,' Taylor added.

Another Operation Santa Claus event yesterday was the University of Science and Technology's garage sale. HKUST organised the event to support a recycle-and-reuse campaign, and has committed the proceeds from stall rentals to Operation Santa Claus.

Jean Hudson, the garage sale's co-ordinator, said the response from vendors had been overwhelming and some people had been turned down because there was not enough space.

Today, five-a-side soccer players will take to the field in their yearly Operation Santa Clause tournament. The event kicks off at 9am at Stanley Fort and is free to enter.

There is a day-long 'fun zone' for children, with a pass costing HK$50 a child. No pets are allowed and a passport or Hong Kong identity card is needed to get into the event. Stanley Fort is accessible by car or New World First Bus No 14.

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