Sunday, December 10, 2006

Free Running

The phenomenon of free-running first presented itself to me when watching Jeremy Clarkson race some free runners across London in a Peugeot 207 as part of an episode of Top Gear, which the runners won. To find out they were not stunt men but young guys from London, part of a club of free-runners perplexed me and those I was watching the show with. They were ludicrously agile, pounding across London roof tops with a wreckless abandonment of concern for gravity and all nature of hard surfaces. I’ve seen more and more of free climbing throughout popular culture since, particularly movies (Casino Royale, Breaking and Entering, District 13) and regrettably Madonna’s video for her aptly titled single ‘Jump’.

As per an official website, free-running treats the urban landscape as an adult playground. It treats man-made structures as an obstacle course that participants negotiate by daring feats of graceful gymnastics. It was invented by a group of childhood friends in Lisses, near Paris - Sebastien Foucan and David Belle created what they call le parkour. The sport grew out of attempts to imitate ninja feats and is heralded as an alternative to the vices on offer to young people as part of inner-city living. Unlike other extreme activities, it has developed a philosophy. “It is not just a game,” Sebastien Foucan is quoted as saying, “it is a discipline because it is a way of facing our fears and demons that you can apply to the rest of your life.”

Free-running is essentially cat-burglary without the larceny—and with a hefty addition of Gallic philosophising.”

[Independent, 10 Sep. 2003]

A new urban sport which emerged from the southern suburbs of Paris, free-running uses gymnastic skills to find alarming new ways of navigating the urban landscape. It is the free-runners’ fondness for catapulting themselves at dangerous heights over anxiety-inducing distances that has brought them notoriety—initially within the confines of their mayor’s office, but more recently on an international level.”

[Guardian, 21 Aug. 2003]

I feel old and boring in that writing a post about free running is how I strive to occupy my spare time and avoid any form of delinquency.

No comments: