Mérida, Yucatán — For the record, those women (and men) in red dresses tromping through the Centro last Saturday were upholding a venerable tradition.
The Merida Maya Mayhem Hash House Harriers collected backpacks, school supplies and toiletries for the 280 children of the Caimede Orphanage and La Divinia Providencia home for 89 elderly residents.
Like other Red Dress Runs around the world — it is particularly prominent in Mérida’s sister city of New Orleans — the event is less an athletic event and more of a raucous, good-humored dash across town, with plenty of stops at cantinas. This was their third annual outing.
The Hash House Harriers is an international group founded in 1938. “…Their Red Dress Run may be the only completely original idea they have ever had. And it happened nearly by accident,” they lightheartedly admit on their web page.
On August 7, 1987, a young lady wearing a red dress emerged from an airplane that had landed in southern California to visit a friend from her high school years. Shortly thereafter, she found herself transported to Long Beach, where her friend intended to introduce her to a zany running group called the “Hash House Harriers.” One member, noting her gender and attire, urged that she “just wait in the truck” until her host returned. With that goading, she ran into history sporting her red dress and heels. The following year (August 12, 1988), to commemorate the event, the San Diego Hash House Harriers sent “The Lady In Red” an airline ticket to attend the inaugural Red Dress Run. Hundreds of male and female hashers adorned themselves in red dresses for a spectacle widely covered by California newspapers and TV news. In addressing the crowd, The Lady In Red suggested that Hash House Harriers hold the Red Dress Run annually as an occasion be used to raise funds for local charities.
The Mérida group is one of the newer outposts among 2,000 “kennels” around the world. Hash House participants call themselves hashers or hares and hounds. Hashing originated in December 1938 in what is now Malaysia, when a group of British expats began meeting on Monday evenings to run to rid themselves of the excesses of the previous weekend. Today, it would appear the hashers the world over happily bend the excess and the exercise.
The Mérida Hash House Harriers meet and socialize regularly … and usually wearing pants.