Destination: Pamplona

July 05, 2006 By: erik Category: Bulls, News, Partying, Spain 1,303 views

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We’re actually gonna do it this year. I’ve just bought bus tickets to go to Pamplona this weekend for the San Fermin festival. For you Americans, that’s the “running of the bulls” that brings Spain to your evening news program once a year.

We leave on Friday afternoon, get there Friday evening, and return Saturday afternoon. There will be no sleeping, because A) there will be no available hotels, and B) the party lasts all night long. The encierro (running of the bulls) happens in the early morning, and the bullfights occur immediately afterwards. This happens every day for a week (from July 7-14), but the biggest one is usually the one that falls on a Saturday (the day we’ll be there).

I know the question you want to ask. The answer is no, I will most likely not run with the bulls. It’s not the bulls that scare me so much, but that some idiot running next to me might do something stupid to put me in danger. This year I will watch the encierro first hand and decide if I might do it some other year. Although my “things to do before turning 30” window is rapidly shutting, I still have time to do this another year if I decide to.

So, be sure to check the blog next week.

  • Uncle Neil

    I’ll look forward to pictures and blog. I like to travel vicariously with you. Two questions. I would like to know what is your interest {motivations} in actually running with the bulls? Your Aunt Barb wants to know if you will be wearing any clothing?

  • Uncle Steve

    LOL Neil, I can’t wait for our nephew’s response.

    First off, congratulations Erik. This is like finally attending the real Octoberfest in Munich, like the ‘real thing’. And I agree with you entirely, i.e., that yes, it would be cool to do, and yes, the bigger and much more (too?) unpredictable danger lies within your two-legged compatriot – who has *also* been drinking all night… – thus the danger(s). 😉

    Secondly, Neil, I look forward to Erik’s answer of why, but I’d add that it does hold its attraction and its largish share of liabilities (ironically this is the same two things that attracted me to motorcycles, and then drove me away from them after more than a decade of owning a bike) – why run with the bulls? I can’t say, but to me it does sound like a real adventure.

    Thirdly, Barb, What the hell are you thinking? You might want to get out a bit more… ;=)

    – Trouble-maker-‘Esteban

  • Okay, here we go. Hard to believe that you two are my “socially acceptable” Ras uncles.

    1) Why run? The reason to run with the bulls is the same reason that people ride rollercoasters (called “russian mountains” in Spanish). It’s the illusion of danger and being out of control that give people a natural high on adrenaline. Personally, I don’t think I would enjoy rollercoasters even if I didn’t get motion sickness. On the few that I’ve been on, I really didn’t like the strapped-in feeling of having no control in a seemingly dangerous situation. I can be perfectly happy without seeking these highs. Ditto for bungie jumping and skydiving. It’s the illusion of danger. And with all of these, there is a very small probability of actual danger. Admittedly, bullrunning probably has a slightly higher danger probability than the others, but it was invented first. However, with all that justification, my reason for running if I ever decide to would be simply for bragging rights.

    2) Clothing? The standard clothing for San Fermin is white shirt, white pants, a red belt (optional), and a red handkerchief tied around your neck. The origins of this dress code are unknown to me at present. We have to go shopping today because we don’t own any all-white clothes that we are willing to only wear once more.

    You may have visited the official San Fermin site that I linked to in this blog entry and seen a bunch of naked people. That is a protest that they have every year where people get naked and march in the streets protesting the cruelty of the bull run (and I guess the bullfight too). I was disappointed to see that American modesty and “family values” have infected the culture and there was no complete nudity, even though they won’t arrest you for walking down the street naked here like they will in the US.

    These encierros happen all over Spain all throughout the year. For some reason, San Fermin in Pamplona has become internationally famous. Maybe it was Hemingway, I don’t know. They all finish by the bulls and people running into the open bullring. Typically, the runners then don’t have to pay the entrance fee for the bullfight. Last year, in Madrid, there was a horror story from the encierro there. Someone tripped and fell down right in the 20-foot-wide entrance to the ring. Someone else tripped over that person, and eventually, you had a big pile of people trampling each other on the ground, completely blocking the entrance to the ring. That would be bad enough, but then came the bulls…

    No one died, believe it or not. There were lots of internal injuries from when some of the bulls actually climbed over the pile of people and into the ring. The worst injury was an 18-year-old that got a bulls horn up under his chin and out his cheek. He was then tossed around for a bit by his jawbone before being thrown free. He survived. Scary, huh?

    We will most likely enter the bullring and wait for them there. Finding a good spot on the side of the street to view the 2 seconds of action as the bulls and crazies fly by is pretty difficult.

  • You should run it is one of the greatest thrills you will ever have and it is relatively safe. Only a dozen people have ever died in the 50 year history of the run. As a three time runner I offer the following advice.

    1. Drink all night. The courage it will give you is much more important than any slight loss of coordination/breakfast you might suffer.
    2. Get to the starting square around 6. It will soon me a massive crush.
    3. At the sound of the first cannon move to the INSIDE of the only 90 degree corner on the course. There will be plenty of room to move around as waves of panic rip through the crowd and less courageous souls run off.
    4. Wait until you see the bulls.
    5. Run the 600 meters to the ring.

    Easy peasy.

    Other tips:

    1. If you arenÂ’t near the start of the course at the beginning the cops will remove you to clear the run.
    2. It is considered poor form to touch the bulls use a rolled up newspaper.
    3. It is also poor form enter the ring before the first bull.
    4. The gates are shut by police immediately after the last bull. This means that at some point on the course you will have to overtaken by steaming 550 kilo angry steaks moving much faster than you. It’s okay the bulls will stick to the middle of the road and you can hug the walls. This ‘trick’ has worked for thousands of runners before you and it will work long after.
    5. Find some local guys who have run before to run with. They will offer advice and courage. When the bulls come you will loose them (everyone runs alone) but you should find them in the ring afterwards.
    6. A camera shop on the main square shoots hundreds of shots of each run. The camera is located on the right hand side of the left hand bend that heads down into the ring. This is where you want the bulls to be passing you.
    7. Beware the other runners.

    Remember it is far better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t.

  • I just watched the chupinazo on TV that happens every July 6th at noon. It’s basically as many people as they can fit into the town square with confetti and champagne spraying everywhere. You’re not allowed to don your red scarf until the firecracker has been set off at noon, officially starting the festivities.

    I found this great video that summarizes the whole festival including some great chupinazo footage.

    The Spanish sure know how to party.

  • Betsy

    Don’t do it!!! Mom

  • Paul

    I’m with Hubbers. You may get other chances to play with cows at other encierros, but “ran with the bulls in Pamplona” is something every other guy will understand.

    I knew a guy – Phil Miller ( who did it once. He didn’t pull it out much, but we all knew it was there.

    Bragging rights is a good enough reason, but add to that the proof to self that uncommon amounts of logic and sense don’t extinguish joie de vie.

  • Since yesterday, I’ve been entertaining the notion of running and building up the courage. Then this morning, on the first run of the festival, some American had to go and get himself paralyzed from the neck down. That knocked me back a few rungs on the courage ladder. 🙁

  • Whew! A follow-up to that story… It wasn’t during the run, it was afterwards when he was doing something stupid in the bullring. Courage climbing again…

  • Betsy

    So a couple of lessons to keep in mind are: if you fall down, stay down, and don’t try to get fresh with a bull (or cow)’s tail or ears.