Running club causes alarm with their course marking in Outer Richmond

RichmondSFBlog reader Gabriel Lampert contacted us this morning about an unusual incident that caught the attention of the SFPD and the SFFD.

Yesterday, a neighbor of Lampert’s observed a man running up Balboa Street from Ocean Beach, dropping small piles of white powder at telephone poles, traffic signs and intersections. The neighbor spoke with the Richmond District police tip line, but no officers came out to check on the situation.

Lampert called the SFFD this morning to follow up, and when they arrived, firefighters said they had spotted similar piles near utility poles along Geary Boulevard. The SFFD called in a unit to test the powder.

Thankfully the white powder turned out to be benign (“not hazmat” according to the SFFD). Because it was actually flour that was used by the local chapter of the Hash House Harriers, a running club that uses the powder to mark their courses. They held a running event on June 4 in the outer Richmond.

I’m sure the often rowdy and boisterous Hash House Harriers (they refer to themselves as “a running club with a drinking problem”) are really getting a giggle out of this…

Sarah B.


  1. It’s possible that he’s a member of the Hash House Harriers Running Club – they frequently mark their running routes with flour (a member runs ahead of the group, marking the course as they go, so that everyone has to navigate the course based on the markings). If the man was in running clothes, I’d bet that’s the case! I just checked out their website, and it appears that they were in the Richmond yesterday, as their starting point was Fulton and 37th Ave: http://www.sfh3.com/runs/862

  2. @ Jenni
    Yeah that seems the most likely explanation! Hmmm, wonder if there’s another group that follows them with some water and an EZ-Bake oven….

  3. Too funny. Cause ya know, people spreading dangerous powders usually do it with their bare hands. Testing the substances Good grief.

  4. @Jenni – Ah, excellent observation! That is probably the explanation. Thanks for the heads up.

    Sarah B.

  5. Does anyone know if the alleged running person with white powder looked like Frank Zappa? That could be an important part of the mystery.

  6. Although he was indeed using his bare hands, he was making some effort to keep the purse full of powder away from his body. In any case, SFFD has vacuumed up the stuff; if they find out it’s flour, maybe they can get the HHH litterers to pay for the job.

  7. Or Maybe Gabriel Lampert could use some common sense for once.

  8. How about asking the guy what he’s doing to begin with?? Its your hood after all.

  9. “he was making some effort to keep the purse full of powder away from his body” – if was running and sweaty, I don’t blame him for keeping it away from his body. Flour and sweat don’t mix, I had a bad experience one time with that combo, but that’s another story!

  10. That’s not a “tip line”. That’s the dispatch number.

  11. Ridiculous Paranoid Busy bodies!
    It’s flower! 100% guaranteed!
    Make them pay to clean it up? It’s flower, it blows away within a day!!
    People need to get a life…seriously…

  12. @MWSF

    Totally Agree. Lampert obviously has nothing better to do, and needs a hobby.

  13. @Dude, @mwsf – Lighten up, people make mistakes, and there’s no need to make fun of people. It was our choice to publish this potential issue which thankfully, turned out to be nothing.

    Sarah B.

  14. It’s actually “a drinking club with a running problem”

  15. @ Roger “Flour and sweat don’t mix, I had a bad experience one time with that combo, but that’s another story!”

    With a set up like that, you HAVE to tell it now! 8^}

  16. No. The hash does not get a kick out of such publicity. Many of us live in the area and we use flour and chalk because it’s biodegradeable (unlike ribbons). sorry we may have upset anyone but as the chap was dropping it with his hands it’s obviously not dangerous or valuable.

  17. I agree with Sarah B. There is no need to make fun of people in this situation. A guy running and dropping flour (or white powder) must have looked pretty strange. I don’t blame anyone for calling the cops if they were a little scared. We all try to look out for our neighborhood. Thanks for publishing the story. Now we will all know what is going on if we see something like this.

  18. Hmm, I thought this story might be related to odd, small writing on the idewalks of 20th Ave from at least between Balboa and Geary. It appears to be cream-colored paint and not chalk. Just wondering if it was utility/MTA related or silly, ineffective graffiti.

  19. LMAO. There are chapters of the HHH all over the world – this is NOT the 1st time that HASMAT have been called to investigate. Most major cities have groups that set trail almost daily! Its flour it blows or washes away. To all my fellow hashers reading this ON ON!

  20. This running club is a worldwide group. Having participated in Harrier runs in three different countries, I can say that it is great fun and a good way to meet people. Where “flour” is not available, shredded paper is often used.

  21. the motto is “a drinking club with a running problem”

  22. If anyone comes off as sounding like they want attention it is the HHH’ers.

    The behavior is odd and IS suspicious, touching it with your hands or not. And the fact that your group know it freaks people out and that HASMATs have been called but still do it anyway is pretty disappointing.

    Maybe you group could grow up?

  23. Well, I didn’t see anyone running by, I noticed the powder when I came outside and it was dumped in front of my house. I am glad someone called, because I certainly wasn’t going to touch it.

    @Dude, @mwsf – I was concerned because I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t want my dog to come into contact with it. White powder could be ANYTHING, from flour to poison. I was concerned because it was at poles and garbage cans – places where dogs like to sniff and do their business, so I was thinking it could have been a person who didn’t like dogs. Odds were it wasn’t, but I wasn’t going to take that chance.

    Put your money where your mouth is and do a fat rail of a random substance lying on the sidewalk.

  24. @BigHeart. Really, why would I want to do a “fat rail” of anything that’s lying on the street? I don’t even want to touch anything that’s on the street. Even in the Richmond.
    I can understand you are worried about your dog…but to call out 2 emergency services agencies, and involve a Hazmat research lab…How much did all this cost? Thousands?!
    All because of a lack of common sense…

  25. Actually hashers often call their local PD to let them know theyll be running in a certain area and not to be alarmed if someone reports the flour. Typically though, chalk should be used in an urban area and flour is used in wooded areas. I blame it on Michael Moore! We live in such a fearful society. Common sense goes a long way if used properly. I’d say we’re pretty responsible. Most of society doesnt even know the HHH exist.

  26. Well, flour since it has so much surface area is explosive if mixed with enough air. Haven’t you ever heard of a silo explosion? I think the amount of air should be regulated.

  27. @Brain C: “Maybe you group could grow up?”

    I don’t think you get it man! The entire goal of the group is to NOT be a grown up. ON ON!

  28. Hashing has only been going on since 1938…and only relatively recently are people so scared of their own shadows now that there is reaction to something as benign as flour. If anyone needs to grow up it all you people frightened by the littlest things…Boo!!!

  29. What do we lay trail with?! White Flour! White Flour! ON-ON!

  30. @ Brian C. – Wow, way to fuel the rediculous nature of paranoia. Until this blog, I bet you had absolutely no idea about the HHH, and they have been running longer and organized longer than anyone of your hobbies for sure. As Bob said…1938, being scared and running away from everything is a pretty new happening. Perhaps if we weren’t a whipped society in believing everything we see in papers and non the news, our kids could grow up with a little logical thought.

    A man running with a “white substance” laying what obviously appears to be a pattern, is not spreading disease. If that person were in a full bio-hazard suit, well then maybe that would suspicious. Instead, we all play the part of helpless American victim. Grow up people, what SF needs is a little more Dirty Harry.

  31. They should try reading the FBI handbook. There’s actually a comment on this. Not surprisingly, knowing their jobs better would have prevented the mix-up and and waste of time or money. A little (very little) knowledge is a dangerous thing.

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