3 men on hash run triggered Woodleigh MRT flour scare: 6 things you didn't know about 'hashing'

Runners at a running trail near Seletar Camp in a file photo. ST FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE - The three men involved in the Woodleigh MRT station flour scare on Tuesday (April 18) are part of a group participating in "hashing".

The train station was closed for almost three hours after an alert was raised over a suspicious white substance that turned out to be flour.

Following investigation, the police said that the trio had used flour to mark a trail for their running route.

The revelation shed light on a practice known as hashing, which refers to a specific type of running by groups that call themselves Hash House Harriers. During hashing, the trail is first marked out by advance runners with flour, chalk or toilet paper.

Never heard of hashing? Here are six things to know:

1. The name comes from an English game, but the practice originated in Malaysia in 1938

About 200 Hash House Harriers from Penang, Malacca, Negri Sembilan and Johore come to run with their Singapore counterparts in 1981. ST FILE PHOTO

The name was inspired by an English schoolboy game called "Hare and Hounds", where hounds go after hares who set out in advance, leaving a trail of clues for the hounds to follow.

The first Hash House Harriers group was started in 1938 in Malaysia by a few British expatriates. It then spread to the South-east Asian region, and other parts of the world such as Europe and the United States.

Hash House is reportedly what the original group called the bar and restaurant they visited after running for food and beer.

Drinking is strongly tied to Hash House Harriers' roots, and several groups worldwide bandy about the slogan: "A drinking club with a running problem".

2. Singapore has several active Hash House Harriers groups

Hash House Harriers from various countries relax after taking part in a Singapore chapter fun run in 1980. ST FILE PHOTO

Singapore, which is said to be home to the second-oldest hash movement in the world, has several active Hash House Harriers groups.

These include mixed groups, women-only groups and men-only groups.

The groups often hold their runs on specific days of the week.

The Singapore Sunday Hash House Harriers, for example, run on alternate Sundays. The women-only Singapore Hash House Harriets run on Wednesdays.

3. No flour and chalk to be used in "NParks territory"

The Thirsdae Hash House Harriers, one of several Hash House Harriers groups in Singapore.at the time, enjoy a run in 2006. ST FILE PHOTO

Hash House Harriers Singapore has a guide for its runners on its website hhhs.org.sg advising them on rules that it says are to be followed "in NParks territory".

In a PDF guide book that was last updated in October 2016, it says that only toilet paper is allowed at nature reserves, and flour and chalk "are not to be used under any circumstances". It did not say why.

The group warned its members that the hares, or the ones who mark the trail, have to pay any fines that are imposed by NParks.

It reminded its runners to be careful about their markings and to clear up paper that is used.

4. A man died during a Hash House Harriers run last year

The body of Belgian national Thomas Cools was found after he disappeared on Sept 17, 2016, during the International Hash Challenge. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A Belgian man died last year after going missing during the 9th International Hash Challenge in Petaling Jaya.

The organiser, Hash House Harriers, and contestants searched for him along the 42km forest trail, but to no avail.

He was found dead later. There was, however, little information on what resulted in his death.

5. A Malaysian man went to court to try and stop women from running in his club's events

In 1990, a man went to court to bar women from taking part in runs by his Hash House Harriers Penang club.

Mr Toh Boon Leng, a florist in Malaysia, cited "severe mental anguish" while running with women.

The Penang High Court later ruled that women could take part in the weekly runs.

6. Two runners spark bioterrorism scare for sprinkling powder at Ikea carpark

In 2007, two people who sprinkled flour in a parking lot for their run caused a bioterrorism scare in the United States. SCREENSHOT: NEW HAVEN INDEPENDENT

In 2007, two people who sprinkled flour in a parking lot for their run caused a bioterrorism scare in the United States.

Siblings Daniel and Dorothee Salchow were organising a run for the New Haven chapter of the Hash House Harriers.

They sprinkled powder through an Ikea furniture store carpark, and police responded immediately.

They were originally charged with a first-degree breach of peace, but the charge was dropped after the pair agreed to donate US$4,000 to local charities.

SOURCES: Hhhs.org.sg, NBC News, New Haven Independent, The New Paper, Seletar.hash.org.sg, Singaporeharriets.com, SundayHash.org.sg

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