The Hash House Harriers qualify as the world’s largest running club. Despite their size and having been founded in 1938, their Red Dress Run may be the only completely original idea they have ever had. And it happened nearly by accident.
In 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 tradition of the Hash House Harriers Red Dress Run quickly spread to every corner of the globe, including Beijing, Montreal, Ho Chi Minh City, Helsinki, Moscow, Tokyo, Washington, DC, Hobart (Australia) and countless other locations. Over the years, the Red Dress Run has been very successful in raising millions of dollars for a wide variety of local charities. The New Orleans Hash House Harriers attracted 7,000 participants to their Red Dress Run in 2010, raising more than $200,000 for 50 local charities.
Today the Red Dress Run is an integral part of the Hash House Harriers’ heritage and is as iconic as the Royal Selangor Club where the Hash House Harriers was born and as sacred to them as founder A.S. Gispert’s drinking vessel. It’s a tradition born before few organizations turned to running events as a way to raise money and long before anyone ran in a dress of any color.
The Hash House Harriers enjoy commonlaw protection of the phrase “Red Dress Run” with additional protections in place and still more legal protections pending.
“How It All Started, ” © RedDressRuns.org.
Further Reading on Red Dress Run History:
- Runner’ World: “Dress Code: The latest race sensation has simple rules: you gotta wear red and it’s gotta be a dress,” Bill Stump, March 1998 (pp 104-111).
- Hare of the Dog: History, Humour and Hell-raising from the Hash House Harriers, Stu ‘The Colonel’ Lloyd, “A R*n In Your Stockings. The real story of the Red Dress R*n phenomena,” pp. 449-452 (ISBN 0 9578332 1 0) 2002.
- The Half-Mind Catalog: “The Lady in Red Speaks,” The Lady in Red, 2005.
Editorial in Harrier Magazine: ‘HHH See Red Over Theft of Heritage’ – December 8, 2010