A tour of Ottawa meetups: The Rideau Hash House Harriers

Candice So is a freelance reporter who loves to read, write and meet people who are doing amazing things. This summer, she went out west to Edmonton, went further west to Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Macau, and is now back in Ottawa, the city where she was born and bred. On her off time she likes to pretend to cook, to walk her dog and to go for a run, albeit really slowly. 

Ottawa gets a harsh reputation for being “the city that fun forgot.” While it’s a cute and catchy nickname, I’d like to think of it as a misnomer. There’s actually a lot going on among Ottawa’s locals, if you take the trouble to look for it.One great resource is Meetup.com, a website for finding groups of strangers who share similar interests and are looking to make new friends. New members can join Meetups and then RSVP to different events before checking them out.

So, I’m embarking on a round-up of some off-beat, yet fun, meetups in our city.

First stop? Rideau Hash House Harriers.  

It’s a strange name that stems from a strange tradition – and one that has nothing to do with either hash slinging or smoking pot.

“Hashing” comes from a longstanding ritual that started among British soldiers in Malaysia in the late 1930s.  As a way of cutting down on their beer bellies, the soldiers started a running group featuring a “hare,” or a person who would lead the run and mark a trail. The rest of the group, known as “hounds,” would chase after the hare’s trail by following the scraps of paper the hare had left behind.

But what really sets hashing apart from a typical running or jogging group is the prize at trail’s end – a glorious mug of beer.

Or a soft drink, or water. The tradition has now expanded to hashers around the world, inspired by the idea of running and being rewarded for it.

Rideau Hash House Harriers

Rideau Hash House Harriers

“What always trips off the tongue is (that we’re) a drinking group with a running problem,” says Peter Wilson, one of the organizers of Rideau Hash House Harriers, one of Ottawa’s local hashing groups.  

He adds that hashing is just as much about being social as it is about being active. “You can join the Running Room and run 15 kilometres. But you’re not going to talk to anyone,” he says.

“(But in hashing), most people run at a fairly slow jog. Most of the time, people are chatting away as they’re running … It’s a reasonable amount of fitness without going nuts.”

Wilson’s group meets every two weeks, running for about an hour or more during each Meetup. Joining a hash costs $5 a session to cover the cost of a drink at the end of the run.

Wilson adds that there’s a great deal of camaraderie among members of the hash.

For example, most hash members will eventually get nicknames and will refer to each other by them during their runs. And as Wilson says, some of the names are strictly NSFW. Some choice ones on the Meetup discussion board include Rubber Duck, Pussarella and Twisted Knob.

So for those who like the idea of going for a run and then rewarding themselves, this may be the Meetup for them. The Rideau Hash House Harriers’ next run is scheduled for March 21.

Do you have a meetup you think we should check out? Comment below!