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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Traceur bullets

... or why we are all freerunners.

Everyone, it seems, wants to be free. There are freeriders out in the mountain bike community doing there best to ride wherever they can. The fringe culture of the bike messenger has given birth to the even more fringe culture of urban fixed-gear freestyle riding. And then there are the freerunners and parkour-ists leaping from building to building and somersaulting like Beth Tweddle.

My day job is 'scientist' and I like to apply a little science to my running. as all 13-year-olds know, science starts with a hypothesis, and for the purposes of this article my hypothesis is this: that all runners are freerunners. The aim of parkour, at least according to Wikipedia, is "moving from one point to another as smoothly, efficiently and quickly as possible using the abilities of the human body". And in my experience that is plain and simple running.

What is the smoothest way through the urban landscape powered by me? I'm not talking fastest here, that is almost certainly the bike. But when I'm riding through a town there's no way I can pick the line I want to take (cars take care of that), and I can't shoot through pedestrianised areas. But when I'm running, I can pick and choose the line, where and when I cross roads and if I want to go through the shopping squares and up and down steps, there's no problem.

The distinction becomes even more marked when you take it off road. The cyclocross rider or the cross country mountain biker need a smooth trail, the downhill mountain biker doesn't want to ride uphill and the all mountain men and women will be beaten uphill by most runners, and probably down too. When running off road, and especially in open access areas, the fell shoe provides the best means of getting around smoothly under human only power and allows the most efficient lines to be picked and run.

So next time you see the freerunners racing James May through Liverpool on a Top Gear repeat, or watch Sebastien Foucan strut his stuff through Casino Royale, remember that you're a free runner too. And you don't need to be performing death defying leaps to prove it.

Ed: For those who aren't in the know, a 'traceur' is a practitioner in the art of parkour.

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