Running with the Bulls
On my first trip abroad I was on an adventure kick like no other. I was literally down to do whatever/whenever. I just wanted to experience. Go figure. I met this guy named Mason in Paris, traveler just like me, in the first city of many on my trip. We really clicked and related on many different topics. He had been traveling for three months & was on his last leg of the trip. I have a few stories to share that involve Mason & Paris. However, this one takes place in Pamplona, Spain. I was actually in Italy at the time with my mother who took a week of her time to spend time with me in a city I thought was gonna be number 1. Mason had shot me a text either through social media or a text app we had used over there and he was basically like, “Get your ass to Pamplona & lets Run with the Bulls.” Now, do you really say no to that? Haha. Of course you don’t. My mom literally had one sleep left before she left to head back home & I basically told her that I had to go. She understood, she couldn’t believe I was about to do what I was about to do. I couldn’t believe I was about to do it either.
I booked my flight from Rome to Barcelona and hopped on a train to San Sebastian. San Sebastian is a small surf town that everyone had to go to in order to get to Pamplona. I got there on the 4th of July. I remember it was the 4th because they were having a concert with fireworks next to the beach. an event totally unrelated to American Independence lol.
Pamplona is a VERY small town. The town makes enough money during this 10 day festival (2nd biggest in the world) to basically fuel them for the remainder of the year. Its located in northern Spain & you have to either take a bus or a car in order to reach it (No Train).
Of course real estate is a commodity during a time like this. I am not made out of money, so I stayed in a tent with some strangers on the hillside. I booked through a place by the name of Stoke Travel. Overall, a good experience. I paid like 50 euros a night and I thought it was definitely worth it for the experience I got.
If you don’t know about the festival, let me break it down for you. The origin of this event comes from the need to transport the bulls from the fields outside the city, where they were bred, to bullring, where they would be killed in the evening. During this "run", the kids would jump among them to show off their bravado. In Pamplona and other places, the six bulls in the event are still those that will be featured in the afternoon bullfight on the same day.
I will be doing a separate blog post, more in depth about the bull fights themselves. I think it deserves its own post.
THE DAY OF THE RUN
We had to board a bus in order to get into the city at 5:30 AM. Now during this festival, the city DOES NOT sleep. It is a party 24/7 and arriving into the city at 5:30 definitely gave me first hand look. I saw people sprawled out in any position in any location lol. Walking through the city you could hear the bass jumping from inside the doors. People standing in the streets with beer in their hands, us looking at them and them looking at us. They knew we were there for work not play ;). The goal of the run is to make it to the bull fighting stadium before the last bull makes it and then they close the doors. The race is a little over half a mile, but its a full on sprint…
up until the race actually began I think I was downplaying it in my head. I truly thought that it was gonna be fun and games & it was just something I was gonna do with ease.
I saw people stretching, jumping up and down, doing whatever needed to warm up. While I was doing ZERO preparation. As race time got closer and closer I could feel myself getting more and more nervous. There are a total of three canons that go off during the time of race. The first canon is to alert everyone that the race has begun and the corral gates have opened. The second canon is to alert everyone that all 6 bulls have been released and third canon is the conclusion of the event.
My thought process before the race: Start at the beginning. (Dead Mans Corner). Which is just a really sharp turn the bulls have trouble making and basically run into the wall. (Not a good spot to be in) but it is a starting point for many people because once you see the bulls you take off running and avoid any possible collision. I had it in my head that this is where I would start and I would not start running until I saw the bull.
I don’t think I can really put into words the feelings that washed over me when the first canon went off. The hairs on my neck actually stood up. The goosebumps were everywhere and well, I decided to not wait until I saw the first bull, I ran my happy ass as fast as I could before they could get to me. (they caught me).
I have never ran so fast in my life. I don’t think anything really sank in until I saw someone laying in their own pile of blood. I think this individual got trampled, not gored, but there was a deep red coming from his head and his eyes were rolling back. Keep in mind I am running and watching this man lay there. I have never really thought the thought “I may die” but I REALLY THOUGHT to myself as I ran. I MAY DIE. What I thought was my fastest, turned out to not be my fastest. Of course my goal was to be in the arena before they closed the doors and of course I made it. You know that feeling after you run and you get that itchy sensation because your pores aren’t getting the amount of oxygen they need? Or that feeling where you feel like you’re breathing acid? That was me.
DO NOT. I repeat. DO NOT underestimate a wild animal. For whatever reason I thought I could at least keep pace with a bull.
The bulls that are transported into the arena are then used for a bull fight at the end of the day. (yes used for consumption).