OMG – CRAZY! CRAZY! But I survived!
The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, would have to be one of the most amazing experiences in the world. It is all part of a massive festival called San Fermin that goes for more than a week: always July 6 – July 14. All of the accommodation in town is booked out for months in advance.
We had always wanted to see this amazing spectacle so when we saw that The Fanatics were offering packages out of London, staying at a camp-site with pool, rock bands and fellow revellers, we jumped at the chance.
I must say that my original intention was NOT to run with the bulls, but once I arrived in Pamplona and got caught up in the excitement of it all, I just had to do it.
My next plan was to watch the first run on the big screen, work out my tactics, and run Day 2. But then I figured it might scare me off, so I just went for it. Thus, Monday, July 7th, the first run, will remain with me as one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I spoke to a number of veterans of the run and worked out my tactics. It seemed that the best starting point was in or near the square and the key was to beat the bulls around ´Dead Man’s Corner.´ This is where the bulls turn at almost a ninety degree angle, so the risk is that you can get slammed up against the fence by a 600 kilogram beast running much faster than Usain Bolt.
On the morning of the run we all jammed into the square around 5:30am and had a long wait before the start of the run. The Police moved people on at about 7:50 so I stationed myself about 50 metres from Dead Manś Corner. I later found out that those who took the chicken option of moving around the corner, or failed to resist the prod of the Police batons, were taken off the course. This was part of the Police plan to reduce the number of runners!
At 8 am the starting rocket went off and we RAN. My intention was to get around Dead Manś Corner and then tuck in near the right hand walls of the buildings, because the bulls tend to charge up the middle of the narrow, cobbled street. The problem was that everybody else had the same idea! With the scent of fear in the air (mine I think!) I charged up the road at top speed, jostling for position with several thousand others, hoping not to fall, and was able to eventually pull in about 2 people deep. It was at this point I broke the Golden Rule of never looking back. And there they were! A pack of enormous, unbelievably fast, horned beasts, charging through anything in their path!
As the mass of bulls and steers (apparently the steers keep them on course) charged past, I ran towards the arena, thinking that all the bulls had passed and only the ‘mop up steers’ remained. We were soon to discover that one bull was separated from the pack and was still behind us. It gored and bunted past us less than a minute later, thankfully about a metre to my left!
The remaining 3 steers posed no problems. After perhaps a total of four minutes of frenzied running, I burst into the arena to thunderous applause from a packed stadium. It was an awesome feeling, right up there with a football grand final win!!
When we were feeling safe and secure in the arena, with the bulls locked away, the locals released six younger bulls to attack us! They may be smaller, but you don´t want to be in their path. I spent the rest of the time near the fence avoiding their charges, while other, braver souls, took them on! This went on for about half an hour with the punters being tossed, bunted and trampled to the roars of the crowd. Plenty of great youtube material!
It is frowned upon to handle or mistreat the bulls. One guy discovered this when he grabbed a bull by the tail. He was beaten ferociously by the locals before being dragged off by the police and apparently beaten again.
It was a great feeling to finally emerge from the arena with my body intact! It was then time to share all the amazing stories with fellow revellers and witnesses. They even sell amazing photos and DVDś of the day’s action around town later in the day.
This event has become a massively supported tour for The Fanatics. As word spreads, it is hard to imagine it becoming any smaller! If you get a chance, go there!