About 180 participants dress in Christmas-themed outfits for annual fund-raising event

About 180 runners from 14 athletic groups donned their brightest Santa outfits for the annual Santa Hash race.

They gathered at Sam Ka Tsuen Recreation Ground in Yau Tong ahead of the run that took them past the gun batteries of Lei Yue Mun on December 11.

The event has historically raised about HK$75,000 for Operation Santa Claus, the annual charity appeal organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

Runners were given three route options around Pottinger Battery, with trail lengths of about 3.5km, 5.5km and 6.5km. Most runners made it around the course within an hour, organisers said.

The event included a raffle in which sangria, beer koozies, and Santa Hash t-shirts were auctioned off, along with a magnum of Veuve Cliquot champagne, for which bidding reached HK$2,000.

Participants enjoyed a meal at a local restaurant nearby after completing the course, with some continuing their celebrations in Wan Chai.

The tradition of ‘hashing’ was established in Kuala Lumpur in 1938 by English chartered accountant Albert Gispert. He took inspiration from the 19th century British school game ‘Hares and Hounds’ in which two groups of runners chased each other through the countryside, following a trail of paper scraps.

Gispert set up an informal running group to promote physical fitness and overcome weekend hangovers. The model has since been adopted by more than 1,700 groups in about 180 countries worldwide.

Mark Hope, chief organiser of Santa Hash the past eight years, said the event enabled different local hash groups to socialise and share stories.

He said ‘hashing’ focussed on the social element of running rather than athleticism.

“We do have some elite runners who join us, but it is generally more about socialising,” he said.

Hope, a Clearwater Bay resident and IT director for a Japanese computer company, said it was gratifying being able to donate to local causes.

“At this time of year, you look at yourself and how others might be less fortunate,” he said. “Operation Santa Claus gives you perspective on that and we see how we can make a difference”.

Founded in 1988, Operation Santa Claus has raised more than HK$250 million for over 230 charitable projects. This year it will support 23 charities in Hong Kong, including new beneficiaries FHL Adventure Education Centre, Yes We Do Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Outward Bound Hong Kong, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.