On Tuesday 21st April, a number of athletes from around the world rail balanced for a mile each. The goal was to collectively achieve a marathon distance walking on rails in order to raise money for two Parkour mental health charities, Soul Parkour, based in Germany and Free Your Instinct, based in the UK.
The organizer of the event, David Banks, had intended to do the entire balance marathon himself. However, due to a knee injury looking to set back his plans to achieve this challenge, he reached out to the community and asked for athletes to take part in the challenge as a group, each of us ‘donating’ a mile to the cause. By the time the event day arrived there were 33 athletes in total, with most completing the challenge on the day. Anyone unable to do it on the day completed it when they were able to. The uptake for the event was quick. Many people were keen to take part and be a part of the challenge.
I was the 8th person to donate a mile to the effort. Like many of the people participating, supporting mental health charities is something close to my heart. The challenge itself would be a mental battle for most involved and to me, it very much represented the process I often go through in my own struggles with anxiety, depression, and ADHD. I was anxious when the day came. Part of me wished I hadn’t volunteered to do this. I had never undertaken anything like this before and found that I was scared. Once I reached my 50m segment of rail, warmed up, and got started, the fear and anxiety subsided. The challenge became the focus and I felt the true value of the activity. There were difficult moments, but ultimately, I was able to work through them and complete the mile. I appreciated the meditative elements of the challenge.
Some of the athletes offered their own thoughts on how it felt to take part in the event. Ekaitz Arizkorreta, taking part in London, joined the event at the last minute. ‘Being able to throw a grain of sand in the direction of a movement-based organization that offers mental health support was just brilliant!’, Ekaitz enjoyed the challenge itself and was grateful for having the chance to take part, even though the event technically already had enough athletes to fulfill the marathon distance.
The event spanned the globe with Daniel Lumsden participating in Australia. He was likely the first person to complete the challenge of the actual event day due to his timezone. ‘I love a big parkour-based challenge. Especially if the conclusion results in support for my fellow practitioners and provides a funding opportunity for a good cause’. He had worked out that he’d need to complete 27 lengths of his section of railing to make the mile and noted that during the challenge he started to encounter various physical aches that he was not used to experiencing as well as mental complacency, losing his balance at points where he had allowed his mind to wander too far and go into autopilot. He became frustrated with himself but afterwards realized he had been overthinking it, ‘In hindsight, I was being ridiculous since completion with no-fault was simply a fabrication of my imagination‘. ‘Unexpectedly, the largest obstacle was, without question, my own train of thought which I had to consistently dodge by forcing all concentration back to the rail in question‘.
Gordon Tsang from Parkour Outreach spoke of the many different emotions he faced throughout the challenge and of working through all of them, coming out the other side with a sense of achievement. ‘It was inspiring to know that others were also doing this challenge. Even though I was doing it on my own, I never felt alone in the challenge’. A sentiment I can certainly agree with. The effort felt like a joint one, even though we were all miles, oceans, and continents apart.
The founder of Soul Parkour, Madeleine Küsel was kind enough to describe her experience taking part in the event. Madelaine talked about maintaining controlled descents when she felt herself coming off the rail and trying to process the anger she felt when she fell off in a constructive way, ‘be mild and patient with yourself! You are the most important person in your life and you should also treat yourself in the best possible way’. Madelaine used the song ‘Last Christmas‘ to get herself into a rhythm for walking, to help her concentrate, and to put a smile on her face. ‘I could say I fell in love with balancing again during the Rail Marathon. Even when I started Parkour back then I always liked it because it had something calm and peaceful compared to the much more dynamic and powerful movements’. She utilized her experiences working with her patients and her experiences gained from various other people in the Parkour community over her ten years of practice to overcome the mental obstacles the rail marathon presented.
‘Go out into the world and find your balance! Over and over again. Because it’s not something you can get and keep like a book or an insight. It changes and develops always and constantly, just like the world itself’.
Janne Laurila and Panda Ilén had the opportunity to do their rail balance at the same place. They found a 260m long segment of rail and used the end of each 260m as a checkpoint. Once they had started they realized some parts of the rail were actually quite unstable, which made the challenge harder, as well as it being quite windy and the rail being a metre high. Janne commented on how everything suddenly became much easier around the 1km mark. He found the last third of the challenge to be a very calm and meditative experience. ‘the intense social media activity during the day was awesome! I certainly felt like we were in it together. All of us. That made the experience even more memorable’. Panda found the support from the public to be encouraging, passers-by commented positively on what they were doing. ‘All and all it was just a nice way to spend some time out on a beautiful day’.
Overall the event has had a very positive impact on the participants. We are all grateful we had the opportunity to be a part of this group endeavor in such an uncertain and difficult time in history. The sense of unity across the space between us all and the enjoyment of the challenge has made this a very worthwhile thing to take part in, especially for such a good cause. It has reminded me how useful balancing can be as a meditative practice and has also served as proof that the parkour community is as energetic and active as ever with so many people eager to take part.
If you wish to donate money to Soul Parkour and Free Your Instinct the Go Fund Me page for the event is still active and has nearly reached its goal!
Event Facebook Page:
Find out more about the Charities and Organizers:
Free Your Instinct:
Seelenparkour:Soul Parkour / ParkourONE
David Banks: https://www.facebook.com/davidbanksartist/
©World of Parkour 2020