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Running with the bulls.
The Running with the Bulls is an iconic tradition in a small town North West of Barcelona towards the Bay of Biscay. Most people would initially think why on earth would anyone start doing this? The answer is simple. The bulls were located out of town and needed to be transported to the Bull ring for the evening Bullfighting session. The morning seemed as good a time as any to transport the bulls and it is very difficult to restrain young fearless teenagers from showing their bravado in amongst a group of bulls.
Running with the Bulls was born.
As it developed into a tradition, the locals would annually chase the bulls through the streets of Pamplona and watch in the evenings, as the bulls would chase the red cape of the Matadors. Since transport became easier the San Fermin festival has attracted visitors from around the world wanting a piece of the action. From the opening ceremony, which sees thousands gather in the town square in all white clothing only to leave with Sangria soaked ensembles, to the morning ritual of the Bull runs.
At 7.30am many ‘brave’ and ‘stupid’ souls gather in the streets to prepare for the signal. Given the path taken by the bulls is 826m, the signal is to alert the runners further down the track that the bulls have been released. The signal is a loud bang of a firecracker set off at 8am at the start of the course to start the run.
Locals carry the daily newspapers as the only defence to a bull with a full head of steam. It is advised that if you throw the paper left and duck right you can avoid the Bull as it is likely to be distracted. From experience, it is much easier said than done. The problem is that with so many people running in tight backstreets there is not always a place to go. All shops and houses are boarded up so there is literally nowhere to hide.
For those who have had the opportunity to run they will be acutely aware of Hamburger Wall/Dead Man’s Corner. This aptly named right-hand turn towards the middle of the course is a hot spot for photographers and onlookers. The Bulls have gathered up some serious speed by the time the wall approaches and with so many runners blocking their vision, the bulls end up charging right into the wall and stumbling in amongst the runners, the other bulls and the cheers of the crowd. Only the most senior and daring runners will attempt to run near Hamburger Wall. You would be extremely well advised to avoid any area close to Hamburger Wall unless you have a magnificent thirst for adrenalin.
Tips for the Run
1. Take a newspaper, for some reason you feel like you have a viable weapon for the ensuing bulls.
2. If you fall during the run and the bulls are approaching, stay down until the bulls have passed. Bulls will think that a body on the road is a log or obstacle and will avoid it. If you jump up after you fall, you are more likely to be ‘attacked’ by a charging bull.
3. If you are a novice and want to run, start about 50-100m on the right hand side of Estafeta (street). The bulls usually crash into Hamburger Wall and will get up on the left side of the beginning of Estafeta. They will head back towards the middle of Estafeta but the right hand side is usually the “safest” point in the track.
4. Once the firecracker sounds, do not panic (easy to say), wait until you see the flashes from photographers at Hamburger Wall and then you know the Bulls are close and you can start running. You do not want to be too far from your starting point once the Bulls surge past.
5. If you want some extra enjoyment, follow the bulls and the steers into the arena immediately after the run. In the stadium they will release heifers that roam the arena floor in amongst many young runners. Heifers are smaller bulls with taped horns.
6. You will undoubtedly be hung-over from the previous night’s Sangria, do not worry too much as you need some courage from somewhere to take on the Bulls at 8am. Once the firecracker sounds, trust me, you wont know you are hung-over.
7. There have been a total of 15 deaths since 1910 and the last was in 2009. You have a better chance of a car accident on the way to Pamplona than actually dying whilst running with the Bulls.
8. The festival has so much more to offer than just the morning run. Enjoy the music, wine and evening fireworks every day of the festival.
9. If heights are not your thing and you never have any ambitions to Sky Dive or Bungee Jump, try running with the Bulls!