What are these piles of yellow powder on the sidewalks?


“Dear PoPville,

Today I noticed some odd piles of a yellow powder around the area of 17th NW between Corcoran and S (see photo above of one of the piles). I have no idea what it could be, especially because the piles seemed randomly placed throughout the sidewalk, were dry, and seemed to serve no purpose. I think we saw around 7+ piles. It didn’t seem to have an odor and my dog was unusually interested in it. Am I just clueless to this being a completely normal thing that serves a very normal purpose? I just want someone to solve this powder puzzle for me.”

22 Comment

  • Emmaleigh504

    It looks like one of those races where the runners have to follow the trail. They have a name I forget.

  • Probably from a Hash Run – I think the White House Hash House Harrier kennel runs on Sundays, the Everyday is Thursday kennel hashes on Wednesdays.

    • Everyday Is Wednesday runs on Thursday…it’s confusing I know 🙂

    • SFT

      Running a hash is a great way to get to know people, especially when you’re overseas. It’s usually the State, USAID, int’l dev community that runs them. That being said, I’ve never run a hash in a city. Out on trails we used little pieces of biodegradable paper. City hash’s just seem kind of horrible to me!

  • These are from Hash House Harrier groups. It’s an informal running group for slow middle aged runners. They use non toxic chalk to mark the run for the group. Google it for more info.

  • It’s chalk from a running group. There was pink and blue chalk all over Adams Morgan, Kalorama and MtP from some sort of run last week until today’s rain

  • They are trail marks from “hashing” — the running/drinking club

  • I’ve seen these people before, and had to google it to figure out what the heck they were doing. I don’t understand the rules, but you’ll see them running around in small groups, hooting, hollering and chanting things, while throwing down handfuls of chalk. Presumably to mark their trail?

  • alphatango

    Yes they are old and dirty and fat runners who just like beer… Oh wait that’s just me.

  • Your dog was likely unusually interested because it was flour (with a little colored chalk added) and not chalk. We used plain flour in Atlanta because it’s cheaper and much easier to find than pulverized chalk.

  • Yup, that’s a hash mark. The flour is colored because throwing down plain flour leads to having some uncomfortable conversations with the police.

  • Hashers. The chalk is the mark of the hash route. Stay away from them.

  • Commenting to agree that this is the HHH. “A drinking club with a running problem”. To explain why they drop chalk, a “hare” runs off first and marks the trail (even with false trails) these are the “signs” that your on the right path (since the group varies in running speed). They shout “R U?” for are you on trail? And those ahead will shout “On ON” if they are on the right trail. You stop mid-way for beers and almost always end at a bar or in a circle with more beer and revelry.
    It is actually a very fun, social experience that I did in my single years. A welcoming group that likes to have fun and get a little workout in too.
    You might have also seen them in the spring for the annual red dress run, which is quite a hoot.

  • The DC area is not only home to the first U.S. hash (nothing to do with drug), but the Capitol city is also home to what many consider to be the largest concentrations of Hash House Harrier clubs in the world. With almost 20 separate kennels (what we call our clubs), between Baltimore and Richmond — many running weekly, you are bound to find evidence (flour, chalk marks in the form of arrows and circles) of our presence. The hash (no drugs, I swear) is mostly a social (dis)organization that encourages physical activity (walking and running) followed (and sometimes interrupted by) our favorite beverage (beer – and sometimes liquor, we like that, too). Both running and drinking are optional, but where’s the fun in that? You’ll find someone from every walk of life at the hash – students, military officers, policemen, doctors, teachers, bar tenders, parents (sometimes with their children), and even grandparents.

    Our hares (the trail designers) use flour and chalk to mark the trails, and the pack (hounds — or the rest of the group) follow the marks like clues that will lead the way to the end (where we drink the beer). Hares try to make the trail a mystery for the faster runners to solve, so the slower runners have time to catch up. When we are in the city (filled with federal agencies) we color the flour with dry paint so noone mistakes it for a “mysterious white substance” and calls out the men in the chem suits (yeah this happened in Chicago, I think).

    For $5, you too can join the fun. So why spend $20 to do some silly glow run with strangers when you can come out every week and run with people who are strange?

    All in all, if you have an open mind and thick skin, we are fun lot. Check it out at http://www.dchashing.org.

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