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—as in so many suburban towns, there was little for young people to do, so Sebastien Foucan, David Belle and others created what they call le parkour (a deliberately un-French spelling to make the point that they were doing something different).
David Belle was filmed for a promotional trailer in which he rushed home across London’s rooftops to catch his favourite TV program. More recently, a trio of free-runners were seen in a program called Jump London.
The sport grew out of attempts to imitate ninja feats. Unlike other extreme activities, it has developed a philosophy. “It is not just a game,” Sebastien Foucan said, “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.”