Looking for something out of the ordinary to do on your next trip to France? Do you like the outdoors? Socializing? Running (or hiking) and drinking? Come and join the Hash House Harriers, a “drinking club with a running problem”. Originally started by British expatriates living in Kuala Lumpur, there are now over 1600 Hash chapters all over the world, including fifteen in France.
I’ve been running recently with a group based in Saint-Cloud, a southwestern suburb of Paris surrounded by plenty of lovely forests. The group is creatively called the Sans Clue Hash because St-Cloud is pronounced “San Clue” in French, and if you add a (silent) “s”, you get Sans Clue (“sans” means “without” and clue…well, that’s English). There is also a Paris Hash, a Fontainebleau Hash (an hour southeast of Paris), a Fool Moon Hash that takes place every full moon in the city of Paris, and hashes in Provence, Pau, Grenoble, and the Riviera.
The concept is basically based on the Hounds and Hares game, like a hunt without animals, with one or two “Hares” laying a trail with flour that the pack have to follow. Of course, to make it interesting (and to help out those who are walkers or slow runners), there are regular traps and false trails to slow the lead runners down, eventually bringing the whole pack together at a beer stop and then the final On-In where everyone enjoys the Hash Bouffe (food) and Down-Down where newcomers are welcomed and the hare’s trail is judged by the weary runners.
The most important quality you need to join the pack is a sense of humour. Regular hashers have a hash name bestowed by the group, often too lewd to print here, and sing songs that probably shouldn’t be repeated around small children. All in good fun, of course.
The groups in and around Paris run every weekend (the Sans Clue on Sunday, the Paris Hash and Fontainebleau Hash every other Saturday), and welcomes visitors (those who have already hashed elsewhere) and virgins (those who have never hashed before). Check the websites to find out the location and time of the run (and to get the contact name and number of the organizer if you have questions). The group is usually made up of English-speaking expats and a handful of fun-lovin’ French folks, all ages and abilities. The Sans Clue Hash costs €5 per person, which helps cover the beer and bouffe, but be sure to confirm this fee if you do any other hashes.
So why alter the traditional vacation plans involving museums, monuments, and bus tours to go running in the forest? Because you’ll get to see a part of France that most tourists never see, meet the locals (French and expats), and combine socializing, drinking, fitness, and the great outdoors all at once for a very reasonable fee. And, of course, you can join the hashes each time you return to France, or continue the fun back in your home town if there’s a local hash group. Give it a try, maybe I’ll see you there!
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’ve republished them in autumn 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris” Broken and dead links have been updated or deactivated, but otherwise the article remains unchanged.