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Red Dress Run Embraces the Ridiculous



NORTHBOROUGH - A few miles from the starting line of the Boston Marathon, runners on Saturday prepared to embark on a very different sort of race.

But just like the world-class athletes in Massachusetts' great sporting event, the participants in the Red Dress Run can at least claim to be able to grab a bystander's attention.

"There's a level of discomfort every year," said Northborough resident Anthony Ziton, who like all entrants, male and female, was wearing a red dress for the race, which began behind the Tavern in the Square restaurant on Main Street. "What makes it a little easier this year is we have a fairly good turnout, so I'm not alone."

There were at least 71 runners officially in Saturday's race, the fourth annual installment of the Northboro Hash House Harriers running club's over-21 event. The boozy tradition challenges participants to navigate an improvised 5K course laid down by a team of pacesetters, known as "hares," who leave about 10 minutes ahead of the rest of the pack.

"The whole point is for the pack to catch the hares, and our objective is to not be caught," said Ziton, one of this year's hares.

Along the way, participants, or "hashers," check in at several beer stops where they have a drink and take a rest.

The general idea, said Hash House Harriers founder Al Del Re, is to have a bit of fun with a hobby that, as the Boston Marathon shows each year, can get a little intense.

"This forces us all to not take ourselves very seriously," said Del Re, who added many hashers are competitive runners any other day of the week.

Del Re's point was driven home in Saturday's pre-race activities, which ranged from silly and occasionally obscene songs, initiations and supplications to a "warm-up" that consisted of a group performance of the old camp song, "My Name is Joe."

But along with the levity, the event has a charitable side; proceeds from Saturday's race, for example, provided a donation of $300 and dozens of food items to the Northborough Food Pantry.

"Stocks are very low, and we feed 70 to 75 families a week," said Donna Weaver, a pantry coordinator. "So donations are huge."

Helping out a good cause is one reason someone like Dan Milton would put on a woman's dress and run around in public. But the Hudson resident, who was taking part in his second Red Dress Run, said the race is also "a blast."

"That's the reason I came back," he said. "It's such an awesome time."

Running: Northboro race embraces history — in a dress



Within the last day, Al Del Re was at Boston College's Alumni Stadium cheering on his alma mater, clad in the cardinal and gold of the University of Southern California, watching his Trojans chase BC scampering quarterback Tyler Murphy. 

Two Saturdays from now, Del Re will be doing the chasing himself, and in another shade of red. He'll do so in an outfit not frequently seen on men attending major college football games. 

He'll be in the designated attire for the Red Dress Run 5K, presented by the Northboro Hash House Harriers, starting and ending at Tavern in the Square at 318 Main St. in Northboro. 

Yes, all men and women are required to wear red dresses, so this is far from your usual running event. Plus, it's not a race, as this run follows the traditions of "hashing," an activity started in Great Britain in the 1930s. 

More on the red dresses in a moment. 

The Sept. 27 course is a closely guarded secret, as it is spontaneously marked by lead runners called "hares." They leave baking flour and chalk marks for runners to follow, drawing a path to three refreshment stops where participants rest, socialize and redeem their ticket for a beer or soft drink. 

Del Re, now 44, wasn't the long-distance running enthusiast he is today when he was a USC undergrad in the 1990s, but he did observe these hash house harrier clubs in Long Beach and San Diego and their growing popularity. 

"I was into these long training runs here, and was wondering how can we encourage others," he said. "Could we get guys to run to a pub, have beers and have our wives pick us up?" 

After looking up the hashing tradition on the Internet, he seized the opportunity to start a club in his home community. There are about 2,400 "kennels" around the world, and Del Re's club has about 250 members, with a consistent group of 20-30 meeting monthly for hash runs of 3-8 miles. 

Red dress runs have become traditional among hashers since 1987, when a girlfriend accompanied a club member to a run in a red dress and high heels. After being mocked for not attending in running attire, she ran anyway. Runners male and female began running with red dresses at first as a joke, before it actually became a tribute. 

Del Re's wife, Jodi, also an avid hasher, teasingly asked Al if he wanted to go dress shopping with her to pick out this year's attire, but he says he's sticking with his "very tight, small dress" from last year. 

"It's pretty hysterical," said Del Re, noting there were 34 participants last year. "There was the thought of trading dresses, but I'm kind of proud that last year's still fits me." 

The Northboro event starts at noon and is open to adults 21 and over. Entry fee is $30, which provides food and three tickets for refreshments, with the net proceeds going to various charities, including the Northboro Food Pantry. 

For more details, visit the Northboro Hash Harriers' website at 

Northborough charitable 5K run requires red dress code

September 8. 2014, by By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer for Community Advocate Newspaper


Northborough – In 2010, Al Del Re took a serious interest in running and has since completed 11 marathons and numerous other races. That same year he added more fun to his runs by founding the Northborough Hash House Harriers (NH3), a local chapter of an international, non-competitive running club. NH3 hosts at least one monthly run year-round.


“We always have a theme for every run – the Red Dress Run being the premiere event,” he noted.

NH3 is inviting runners and walkers of both genders to participate in its fourth annual Red Dress Run to be held Saturday, Sept. 27, noon to 3:30 p.m., beginning and ending at the Tavern in the Square in Northborough. The only requirements are that participants must be at least age 21 and follow the mandatory red dress code.

Del Re plans to don the same red dress he has worn for NH3’s first three annual runs.


“I’m proud to say that I still fit into it four years later,” he proclaimed. “I’d never worn or owned a woman’s dress until the very first run. I didn’t know my size. I didn’t know how to go about buying one. I ended up having to go to the dress shop to try on different dresses and figure what I could actually run in.”

Now, Del Re believes that he’s more empathetic of women’s wardrobe woes.


“It really was an eye-opening experience to understand what women go through,” he shared. “And realizing how tightly fitting and revealing all these dresses are. It shows off every contour of your body and puts you completely on display.”


H3 globally declares it has no rules, only traditions. The Red Dress Run ritual began in 1987 when a newcomer in Long Beach, Calif., attended her first run attired in a red dress instead of running clothes.


There’s an age requirement because the run includes drink stops for hydration with beer or water. Beer tends to be the beverage of choice.

“This helps keep it lighthearted and remind us that it’s not a race,” Del Re explained. “We’re there to be sociable, to get some exercise and to have a few laughs.”

They’re also there to support worthy causes. Proceeds will go to two local charities: the Northborough Food Pantry, a source for supplemental food to those who are on a limited income or have an acute need; and the Northborough Helping Hands Association, a volunteer nonprofit organization that serves various needs of the town’s residents.


However, it’s not necessary for run participants to be from Northborough. NH3 members also hail from Hudson, Marlborough, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Westborough and surrounding communities.


While participants can prepare by shopping for a red dress, they can’t practice the 5K run route beforehand because of another H3 custom. The lead runner, known as a hare, spontaneously marks the trail with baking flour or chalk for everyone to follow.


“The hare tries to makes the course not only surprising, but also challenging and unique in some way,” Del Re explained. “It’s fun for the participants because you never know where you’re going.” Whistles are provided for participants to stay in touch along the way, Del Re noted.


“Part of the fun is that we run together as a group,” he said. “It’s not an individual contest at stake; it’s a team sport.”


Registration is $30, which includes a T-shirt, whistle, and four tickets for beer or water. The maximum number of participants will be capped at 100, the capacity for the post-run party at the Tavern in the Square, 318 Main St. For registration and other information, visit


September 23, 2012, Photos by Bradley Cauchen ;  Written by Brad Petrishen. Metrowest Daily News

​MARLBOROUGH —Perspiration dripping from his brow, Al Del Re looked a little bit annoyed  Saturday afternoon as he jogged up the hill toward the Marlborough Country  Club.  The tired, thirsty man’s body needed hydration, and his bright red dress - in addition to being caked with sweat - clung to his body.


Perspiration dripping from his brow, Al Del Re looked a little bit annoyed Saturday afternoon as he jogged up the hill toward the Marlborough Country Club.

The tired, thirsty man’s body needed hydration, and his bright red dress - in addition to being caked with sweat - clung to his body like Spandex, leaving little to the imagination of the golfers who stopped putting on a nearby green to stare.


But public perception wasn’t what was bothering the Northborough resident and the three other hairy-legged men in red dresses and running shoes as they toiled up the hill in the nearly 80-degree heat. The problem, rather, was that they were hounds without a scent.


The men, members of the Northboro Hash House Harriers running club, had just run two-and-a-half miles in search of the first checkpoint of their "race" — at which they could relax, wait for the other runners and, of course, drink beer.


But the scent — chalk markings and flour left behind by the lead runner, or "hare" — had gone cold, and Del Re and his friends were concerned that they might be sniffing in the wrong direction.


"This is not a good trail," Del Re remarked, as his friends signified their agreement with somewhat stronger verbs and adjectives.


The men ultimately determined that the country club was indeed the first checkpoint, and accordingly strode in to drink a beer, even if they did feel, as one runner put it, "a bit overdressed."


"It’s awesome," Del Re said of the Harriers, a group of area men and women who get together monthly, drink beer and chase each other down. "Some people think it’s sophomoric — it’s really not for everybody — but we have some hardcore hashers that never miss a trail."


This month’s run was the biggest of the year — the Red Dress Run, a race put on by many of the world’s 2,000 or so hash running clubs that span some 185 countries.

The run was started in honor of a California woman who, unaware that the hash events were more than just a party, went to her first hash event in a red dress instead of running clothes.


Started two years ago, the Northborough sect ran its first Red Dress Run through Northborough last year, and decided to switch things up this year and run through the city.

"It’s a lot of fun," said Joe LaValle of Northborough. "It’s a little goofy, and some people might be turned off by that, but there is a good cause in it."

Runners yesterday bought beer and food tickets from the event organizers, the proceeds of which went to the Northborough Food Pantry.


The club hosts runs every month — usually the men wear regular clothes — and Saturday’s event brought a number of newcomers intrigued by the dress code.


"It’s good camaraderie," said Dan Milton of Hudson, who runs with the Highland City Striders, a more traditional running club out of Hudson and Marlborough.

Milton said he wanted to try something different and have some fun, and luckily was able to poach a dress from his wife’s closet.


"It fits me pretty good, too," he said as he and other hounds drank a beer before the race started. "She told me not to wear it out though — to wait until the race to put it on."

Other runners didn’t have the luxury of a discreetly acquired dress.


"It was important to find the right size and support," said Tony Garcia of Worcester, who had to go to three different stores before finding his dress — a low-cut number that elicited many head turns and car honks.


"I’m running, so I had to go with something a little more open and airy," he said unapologetically.


Del Re, too, had to shop for his dress, although he took his wife along "for protection."


"I definitely see what women go through," he said, in terms of being forced to put oneself on display.

"You just can’t hide anything," he said of his tight dress.



July 8, 2011, Photos by Christine Peterson.  Written by Priyanka Dayal, Worcester Telegram 


NORTHBORO, MA — Dan Sambuchi lost 30 pounds after he started adding a little more beer to his diet.    A little more beer — and a lot more exercise.

Sambuchi has been running regularly since joining the Northboro Hash House Harriers, a club that combines exercise and alcohol.

During a monthly “hash,” a group of runners follows a trail, sometimes running as much as seven or eight miles. But these are not races. The runners stop to take breaks, and during those breaks, they drink beer.



NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. – Do you enjoy running but sometimes wish you could make it more fun? That’s what the Northborough Hash House Harriers do every month at their hash runs. Complete with running, socializing and beer drinking, the club, referred to as a kennel, attracts all types of people from serious runners to curious community members.


“I had taken up distance running with some friends and I was interested in the idea of having a running club,” Northborough Hash House Harriers founder and Lord of the Kennel, Al Del Re said. “There are ones that exist but they’re all very series. So I had the idea, lets run to the pub and have our wives pick us up. That didn’t go over too well. So I started researching online and found hits on the Hash House Harriers.”


Del Re started the Northborough kennel in November of 2010 and they plan a new hash run every month. Originating in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, now Malaysia, by a group of British colonial officers, the hash runs are usually compared to games like “hare and hounds.” One person goes ahead and sets the trail as the hare and the rest of the group tries to catch them as the hounds.

“We’re not really trying to catch the hare,” Del Re said. “There is some trash talking and some of the faster runners may try to catch them but when I’m the hare I set an impossible trail so you’ll never catch me.”


The special parts about the hash runs are the checkpoints. During the runs, the hare sets up points where the hounds can socialize and drink the beer provided by the hare. The checkpoint stops usually last as long as it takes for the slower hounds to catch up with the group.


“The hare will leave beer and it has to be completely gone before everyone can move on,” Del Re said. “It’s not mandatory, the run is meant to be fun. The beer is part of what makes it fun.”

When it comes down to it, the Northborough Hash House Harriers are all about making running fun.


“A motto that a lot of Hash Houses use is: it’s a drinking club with a running problem,” Del Re said. “But it’s more about making running fun. When I’m there after my third beer check and I’m running and jumping over benches, I feel like a kid again. It’s a lot of laughing and goofing around.”


The hash runs are also realistic for everyone. You only need to be able to run for five to ten minutes at a time (and be over the age of 21 to participate). The trails are between three to eight miles long.

“One of our longest hash runs was seven and three-quarter miles and it took over three and a half hours,” Del Re said. “People came to me and said that it was the farthest they had ever run and couldn’t believe that it was that far. Everyone had fun.”


The next hash run is expected to be a unique event on Saturday, July 9. This one is the swimmer hash and will all different types of water. It’s even suggested that participants wear swimwear and goggles.

“The idea came from this old movie called “The Swimmer” with Burt Lancaster,” Del Re said. “It’s dated and silly but the movie starts out with him jogging and he comes up to a house with a pool and there’s a cocktail party and he just dives in and swims up and gets handed a cocktail. He downs it and talks to everyone about his life. When he gets out, he sees all the pools in the distance and he decides that he’s going to swim home. The movie catches the spirit of hashing.”


Del Re hopes to break their attendance record with the swimmer hash. "I want to do a one hundred person hash,” Del Re said. “At the rate we’re going we could pull it off.”

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