Extreme Running

Made popular by a recent James Bond film, a new urban art form called free running hits the streets


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Meeuwenberg has been a traceur for less than four years and has found more than a paycheck in the practice; it's also tamed his fears and bolstered his self-confidence. Foucan says his favorite aspect of his art is that it affords him a feeling of connectedness to his surroundings—a rare relationship in today's industrialized landscape.

For Toorock, the two sports are a return to basics. "We're not making something up; we're finding something we lost," he says. "That's how we learn about things around us: we touch them, we feel them." When he trains traceurs, he starts from the ground up. In addition to working heavily on conditioning, his students learn how to roll out of jumps, land on a small target (called "precision") and eliminate stutter-steps before performing a vault, a technique for springing over an object.

A beginner will often see clips online and think he can immediately hurdle across rooftops without first cultivating basic skills, says Toorock. But without humility, patience and the proper foundation, a novice can seriously injure himself. Even the mighty Foucan, who makes his living doing things that have dazzled millions of people across the world, stresses that the most important thing for traceurs to remember is that it's not about impressing people.

"Do it for yourself," he says.

Jenny Mayo covers arts and entertainment for the Washington Times.


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