By Shannon Kelley Gould
Imagine an activity that offers the grace of a martial art, the adrenaline rush of an extreme sport, and a touch of the danger and mischief of MTV’s Jackass. Free running, which takes its cues from a French physical discipline called Parkour, involves little more than a change in perspective: For free runners, the world is their obstacle course. Free running turns anything in the environment — especially those things that tend to confine — into the elements of a playground just waiting to be swiftly traversed. Railings, staircases, walls, buildings, and Dumpsters are jumped, vaulted, or climbed, à la Jackie Chan. On his Web site, Sebastien Foucan, widely credited (along with David Belle) as the co-founder of Parkour, claims, “Following a path can bring with it new opinions and thoughts, both obvious and those that are not so obvious. You must always follow your own intuition — you must always do what you feel, rather than what others think.” Deep thoughts for a such a seemingly random activity — but, in fact, most free runners wax similarly philosophical about their activity of choice, describing it as a way of life, and comparisons to “being fluid like water” are common among devotees. We learned about the phenomenon from the jaw-droppingly wild videos posted on local free runner Michael Turner’s MySpace page (myspace.com/free_running) and at santabarbarafreerunning.com — needless to say, we were impressed. For those eager to give it a try, all you need is your own imagination (and maybe some kneepads).