Parkour Week: The Pains of Progress

How time does fly! Welcome to the second to last day of Parkour Week.

Tonight I went out for a full evening with the Parkour Club. Compared to other meetings I’ve tagged along for, this one seemed to start a bit more lax and informal, and only about ten traceurs were present. Mr. Maxson was present as usual, and asked the group in front of him where they wanted to go for the evening, and one person said, “Somewhere new!” I chimed in, jokingly saying, “Somewhere well-lit!” Yeah, that went just as well as me attempting this:

Yeah, so this isn't how it would have gone.

So we took a leisurely stroll down to Southwest (quite a change of pace from previous evenings), and ended up around the commons of Hampshire Dining. An immediate observation I made was how much more…populated the area is compared to the area I’ve been to behind Berkshire. It’s flanked on two sides two sides with dorms, with pretty frequent foot-traffic from people going to/from their dorms or coming from the dining hall.

For a group of guys and gals that make it a point to be able to get over, around, or under obstacles, this is usually of little concern. For the dope following them with half of his attention on a view screen and half on tracking a traceur (yours truly), it’s a little more hazardous.

On that- I didn’t think of it much before taking this assignment, but do you know how hard it is to stay out of the way for people who, vault, jump, or climb anywhere at any point?

Jordan Medeiros grabbing a ledge following a wall jump.

Tonight seemed to be a bit of a tough night for a few traceurs, as at least three hit their knees on tables, some hit walls, one traceur, Javier King, aggravated a previous (parkour related) ankle injury by attempting a leap onto a pole and landing awkwardly. So I sat and chatted a bit with King, a physics major, as he tested his ankle against a concrete railing. I asked him what led him to parkour at UMass in the first place, and he said, “Actually, one of the first thoughts I had when I got the acceptance letter was, ‘I wonder if they have a parkour club?’ Previously, I had practiced rolls at home, but no actual parkour.”

Kevin Barba transitioning from a pole to a ledge.

He doesn’t call himself a traceur, though. Not yet. I asked him why, and he said, “I think I might be there philosophically, but not physically.”

A small aside about King: He apparently doesn’t own socks. Not a single pair. I clarified this multiple times, all with the same negative answer. He either wears those toed climbing shoes, or goes barefoot, all around campus. Though he did clarify by saying, “I may have a sock, but it’s my brothers, and I may only have it because it snuck in there when I was packing.”

The group ended the evening with a short workout, doing three sets of 25 push-ups, but Maxson tried to trip up the group by making them count off the push-ups in alternating orders, and by the third set, it had dissolved into bouts of laughter, which as it turns out, make for very painful push-ups.

They followed up the push-ups with “Russian twists,” which I had not really known the name for until this point but had always known it looked rather silly.

Lastly, Maxson had the group line against the wall for what I understood as “wall sitting,” which basically has you sit against a wall as if you had an invisible chair under you, except it’s basically just your quadriceps holding you up. It was decided to “sit” for five minutes, and I actually attempted it with them.

It’s hard.

But not as hard as doing a headstand with no hands, though. It's all perspective.

After pseudo-sitting for a few moments, you begin to get a profound burn in your legs, and the only remedy is to stand up and goose-step around until the pain subsides. You think it’ll be better when you settle back into it, but once you rest back against that wall, the burning ruses back into your legs. If mine could scream, they would have.  They would have screamed like small, frightened children.

Small wonder when Maxson referred to them as a both “endurance and mental” exercise.

Tomorrow, the last day of Parkour Week. Stick around.

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