While skateboarding and rollerblading are common sights on the streets of London, in the recent past you might have spotted people getting involved in a new type of athletic activity – developed out of military obstacle course training, participants in the rather scary-looking parkour and freerunning treat the streetscape like a gym – leaping gaps, vaulting walls and the like to get from one point to another.
The biggest professional group in the UK are 3Run, an organisation established by brothers Chase, Cole and Cane Armitage about nine years ago. Now with around fourteen members, the team operate out of Basingstoke but often find themselves on the streets of London – most recently as part of HTC’s campaign, Tale Of Your City, which aims to show people the video capabilities of their high-end phones, specifically the HTC One X+ (being the owner of the previous HTC One X I know all about how good it is in that regard).
In advance of the release of their latest video, which features lots of iconic London spots, I had the opportunity to catch up with Mike Wilson, one of 3Run’s members, to ask him about his back story, the history of parkour and what’s happening on the parkour and free-running scene in London and the southeast right now.
Mike started off as a gymnast so found the move over into freerunning and parkour a fairly straightforward one – he’s been involved in this particular activity for several years and thrives on the challenges that it presents and, he says, the adrenaline rush that it gives you when you successfully carry off a complicated move!
3Run, the organisation that Mike is part of, offer coaching courses to people of all levels of ability out of their base at the Basingstoke Active Life Centre – working with the local council they’ve also managed the transformation of what was a local skate park into a dedicated parkour and freerunning facility – a first for the UK.
During our conversation I asked Mike the question that lots of people who’ve seen the activity wonder about, and that is what the difference is between parkour and freerunning, which on the surface are very similar. He explained that while the purpose of parkour, often dubbed ‘the art of displacement’, is to get from A to B in as straight a line as possible while conserving energy, freerunning allows participants to add flare – incorporating back-flips, twists and so on to make it more visually appealing and to challenge the athletic skills of the participants.
Asked about what’s going on in London right now, Mike said that certain spots in the capital are starting to see lots of activity. If you find yourself around the IMAX at Waterloo station, down at Vauxhall Bus station or in amongst the underpasses and walkways at Elephant & Castle (as well as mixing it up with the skateboarders on the Southbank of course) keep your eyes open, because you might just witness some of these energetic athletes doing their stuff!
You can see the new video from HTC’s Tale Of Your City campaign featuring 3Run on, around and above the streets of London below. If you’re interested in the background to the video, the hashtag #htcmyurbanstory was used on Twitter throughout the production process – click on the link to get the inside story on how it was assembled.
If you think you’ve got what it takes to get into parkour or freerunning why not check out the ParkourUK website which has lots of resources available, as well as 3Run’s own of course.