Begun centuries ago by children following the bulls that were being brought from encilliro through Pamplona’s old town to its bullring, last week on Thursday, July 12, 2012 I went Running with the Bullls, one of my original life goals (and one hell of a highlight of a great week in Spain).
Bullfights happen throughout Spain and Latin and South America, and I saw some of the gruesome act the ancient San Fermin festival in Pamplona, but only here, because of the distance between its stables and its ring does the most famed Running of the Bulls happen every year.
It was thrilling and nerve-wracking and crazed and really very quick — less than five minutes of real running and less than a minute of the bulls running by before running into the bullring. Check out some pretty fun video below.
Here’s some shaky video of the heart of my running with the actual dozen 1500-pound bulls and steer — and the hundreds of crazies running alongside me. To be sure, while the bulls are running together, the risk is not a bull attack but instead getting pushed down by the throng and run or stomped, which happens every year. (These bulls are used in that evening’s bull fight and then will be eaten the following day).
After running through the old town, if you’re lucky, fast enough and start far enough into the course, you can make it into the ring.
Once in the bullring, over the course of a half hour, six baby bulls (more like 500-700 pounds, which will in a few years be the bulls that people run with) are let into the ring to run around and attempt to knock over foolish men who taunt them. I touched one, went up face to face a couple times and then mostly stood in the middle of the ring and felt the rush of adrenaline every time one ran toward someone who was taunting it. Below, watch one of the bulls running around.
Everything I learned about Running with the Bulls
- Fit in: get there on time, 7am for first timers before 8am start, be dressed in colors
- Don’t be drunk: crazy festival
- Have a strategy: seemed to be two big goals: either starting the run at the beginning to run with them as a pack; or starting along the path to try to run into the bullfighting ring where you can then run around being chased by baby bulls. In between those two starting points is dead mans curve, where people are gored and trampled every year, like the half dozen this year
- Run along the sides and any turns remember that most bulls are running hard and going wide around turns