RUNNING OF THE BULLS: Pre-Run Thoughts


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June 28th 2011
Published: June 28th 2011
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June 27-28th (The first run is on July 7th)


Right now I am in Seville, Spain and just spent over an hour at dinner with a guy from southern Spain that has done the run every year since he was 18 (over 20 years). This was the first time I am actually nervous about the run and it is still 10 days away. I am writing this more for myself so I can reread this several times as the run approaches, but it can also fill in my faithful readers as to what the run and festival is about. I will also be updating this post several times as the run approaches so make sure to check back. I will mark a new date at the start of each section but it will not show up as a new post.

-Rule #1: The most important rule, “If you fall, don’t even move a muscle until someone taps you on the shoulder.” This is because most serious injuries happen after someone falls and they see the bulls go by and they sit up only to meet the one or two bulls that fell behind the pack or the crowd running from those bulls. If you go down, quickly put one hand/arm around your neck, and the other around your head.

-Rule #2: If the bulls do get separated or down they will panic, you cannot. Once again, don’t move a muscle. If you stand perfectly still, they are looking for a moving victim. Running at this point won’t do you much good anyways.

-The entire length of the run is is 903 yards (826 meters).
-Every year, roughly 200-300 people are injured but most are contusions due to falling but 10-50 by goring
-In the last 100 years, 15 people have died (1 every 6-7 years) the last being in 2009
-The bulls weigh 1,500 to over 2,000 pounds (107.142-142.857 stones) I weigh 160 (11.428 stones) but we are both pure muscle

-The day before, study the route. Run the part of it you expect you will do the next day to make sure you are ok with it. Most people can only run 50-100 yards of the course during the actually run. Walk the course at least 5 times the day before you run. Walk when it is crowded, to feel what it will be like.

-To run, you must be in the runners area by 7:30am. To get a spot to watch, you must find it by 3am.

-“Dont be a wanker and just start running” You are supposed to wait till they are there before you start. The problem is you will only be able to see the crowd and other runners. His insider tip is to keep looking at the balconies and watch for the camera flashes. Someone will always shout, “RUN!” but you have to ignore it and wait for the flashes, within the next 2-3 seconds you better be in a full sprint.

-If you don’t want to look for the flashes, look for real fear in the runners eyes. Some people try to run the course before the bulls are even close. Let them go by but dont start running. The next group will be the nervous ones that wanted to wait but just didnt want to risk it. When you see the runners with true fear and desperation in their eyes, you run.

-The names of the typical stretches of the course:
SANTO DOMINGO (280 meters) - The beginning section. Uphill towards the Town Hall square. They shoot a rocket to let you know the gate for the bulls is open. They shoot a second rocket to let you know that all the bulls are out of the gate. The second you hear the second rocket, run. The bulls will be at their fastest at this point, and by the time you are sprinting, they will have ran past you, you hope. The down side to this is this is where the course is most narrow. When the bulls are in a group, there is only a little room for the runners on the sides. Very little thinking time and should be left for more experienced runners. Some runners will start at the top of the hill, run downhill towards the bulls, then stop suddenly and run with the bulls. Dont do this as these are the most experienced. If you make it to the town hall square, just head for the walls and watch out for those starting at this point. This is where many of the deaths occur because the two groups of runners crash into each other, people fall and get trampled, try to sit up and get gored.
AYUNTAMIENTO (100 meters) - Start at the top of santo domingo, through the town hall (ayuntamiento) square and exit at the start of Mercaderes. Stay to the left cause the course starts to bend left at this point and the bulls tend to go right. The downside, all the runners will try and get out at the start of Mercaderes cause there are no exit points after. If you dont get out, you can stand still and hope the bulls go by or sprint for you life through the next section. This is where the dangerous 90 degree corner is called Estafeta.
ESTAFETA (450 meters) - This is such a sharp bend to the right, the bulls often fall or get bundled up on the outside. NEVER TAKE THE CORNER ON THE LEFT. This is where the bulls get split up and will start going on a rampage when they do. There are no escape points till the end of a long stretch 200 meters away. It is an uphill run. The only escape is to make yourself as thin as possible and press up against the wall. This is where alot of first time runners start but they will start jogging when they hear the second rocket (within a minute the bulls will be here) and then start sprinting. If you do this section, walk it the night before and make mental notes of shop railings are. Most injuries happen here.
ESTAFETA to BULL RING/TUNNEL - This is the spot where most photographers are so naturally, the most runners are. Trampling is common. Should avoid this section. The pile up is horrible and if you are stuck there when the bulls arrive, you are out of luck.

-It is the people that are more dangerous than the bulls. You will come up with a plan and escape point, but someone always falls down in front of you and you have to change that plan in a hurry. You might want to stick to the right or left, but crowds will push you towards the center (in the bulls path). Also when people have true fear, they react differently. One time he got to a safe spot and thought he was good. Next thing he knew someone so scared, grabbed his shit from behind and used him as a shield. He had no time to react and took a bulls horn to the leg (he showed me the scar). He spent 10 days in the hospital on that one occasion but he showed me several scars for “smaller” incidents.

-Some photographers there just to watch will hop out into the exit points to grab that great action shot. The rule of thumb for the runners is to forearm him to the face or camera.

-Once you climb a fence to escape. Dont turn around and watch. Keep moving so others can do the same.

-If you really insist on bringing a camera, tape it to the front of your leg underneath your pants. But be prepared that if you fall down at all, its going to smash and not to take it out during the actual run.

-Learn a little about the history. The San Fermin Fiesta, the real name of the whole event, the encierros (the actual run) is just 8 minutes a day for 7 days, dates back to the 15th century. Ernest Hemingway wrote “The Sun Also Rises” in 1926 after he did the run which put it on the world level. There is a huge statue there of Hemingway to honor this. The run is just how they would get the bulls from the farms to the bull fighting arena where they will fight (and almost always die) that night. Kinda makes me feel better that if i get hurt, that bull will still die that night. The bulls are raise on special stud farms and only the bulls that have no contact with people or the outside world are picked, which means they have a better life than most domestic bulls and are much stronger, intelligent, braver, and more dangerous than domestic bulls. This means when the run starts, this is the first time they have seen people.

-Do not bring a wallet, passport or anything else with you. Only bring a few small notes and put them in your socks. More people get pickpocket this week than any other time or place on earth. They say about 1 outta 10 people will get stuff stolen from them here cause there is a lot of drinking, a lot of crowds, and a lot of pushing.

-Dont wear a leather belt or anything else that can get hung up on a bull horn. Tie your shoes before you get there cause once the adrenaline kicks in, so many people break their shoelaces which leads to injuries.

-You are supposed to wear white pants, white shirt, red sash, red scarf. Just remember, bulls are colorblind, they follow movement. Just make sure your sash isn’t to long cause the bulls will follow it. Also carry a rolled up newspaper. Its good luck to wave it and the figure of San Fermin and it can be used to distract a bull goring you.
**Just note, I am wearing my red and white “where’s waldo” shirt & glasses with the white pants, red scarf, and red sash.

-Do not interfere with the drovers work. These are the ones in green whose job it is to try and keep the bulls on course. Many are former matadors. They also make sure nobody disrespects the bulls and will smack you with the stick they use if you do.

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June 29th:
I started looking up videos on the run. here are a few good youtube videos that show different aspects


This one shows a birdseye view of that sharp turn but also lets me see how many people do the run at this section. As of now, this is where i plan on starting. Also note the bulls falling, oh and the injuries





Heres a guy that snuck his camera on, and it also shows the part immediately following the run in the bull ring when they let out smaller bulls to run around. Oh and the partying the rest of the day




A helmet cam view of the last section. My favorite part is at the 3:58 mark when they are watching the replay on the big screen and forgot that they release smaller bulls to run around




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July 4th:

Happy Independence Day America!

I went to celebrate the most American way I know, McDonalds and a bullfight. I figured I would rather spend 5 euros here in Madrid to see a bullfight rather than having to scalp tickets in Pamplona for over 50 euros. The problem was seeing the bullfight actually got me a little more nervous about the run since the teams of matadors couldn't control any of the bulls very well. These are trained professionals who have spent their lives learning their art and two of them got gored and several horses got injured because these bulls were big and mean. Here are two clips I shot while there, but be warned, they are graphic. They show the bulls bleeding, one shows a bull going after a horse, and if my readers want, i do have a video of the bull dying, but thats even more graphic, so if enough of you want me to post it, leave a comment or message me and I will.

I'm not sure if its just my setting, but change the video quality to the best cause i did capture it in HD.


This one shows one of the matadors getting gored at the very end, sorry i already pushed the stop button before i realized he got gored



This one shows the bull picking on the horse. This one horse was knocked over at least 5 times in this fight and one was so bad, everyone thought the horse was died. It ends up though, the horse was able to walk out with no visible injuries.

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July 5th:

This is my last day in Madrid before heading to the crazy san fermin festival in pamplona tomorrow. As of now, my plan is to join the opening ceremony and try to do a walkthrough like the guy told me too. I also plan on doing the first run on the 7th but I am kinda going to do the "wanker" run just to get a feel of how it is and complete my goal of running with a hand on a bull on the 8th. HOWEVER, if I see the opportunity to complete my goal the first time, I am going to take it and just watch the next few runs cause I have now started to receive death threats that if I get hurt, certain people will come finish me off. I looked up the schedule of events (a good website that lists this with videos of each thing is http://www.partyearth.com/cities/pamplona) and it looks like this:

Wednesday, July 6th:
12pm: Chupinazo (Opening ceremony) - A massive party after the mayor gives a speech. Tons of wine and booze are poured on the thousands from the balconies while the crowd chats, sings, and dances all in the traditional red & white clothes

12:05pm: Fountain Jumping - This is one thing I hope i dont do. You dive 15 feet head first off a tall fountain into crowds of drunk people. After my car accident last year, this is the last thing i want to do, i just hope i remember that after i start drinking. This goes on 24 hours a day throughout the entire week.

6:30pm: Bullfight - This is the first one, from this point on, the bulls that run that morning are the ones that will be in the bullfight that afternoon

10pm: Artificial Fire Bull - A fake lifesize bull packed with fireworks is lit and they run it through the streets. You are supposed to dodge the fireworks shooting out in every direction

11pm: Fireworks - Nightly firework show

Thursday, July 7th (and each day after)
12am: Plaza Abierta - Live music and drinking all night long

6:45am: Las Dianas/Reveille - Traditional band plays. Its the warning that they are preparing for the run and you have about an hour to sober up

8:00am: Running of the bulls - The main event

10am: Procession of San Fermín - Collects the San Fermin figure and parades through the streets

12pm: I'm told this is when the city kinda sleeps for a few hours, most people find a cafe or home and watch the state run TV channel which is constantly reshowing the run from that morning.

6:30pm: Bullfight - This is the first one, from this point on, the bulls that run that morning are the ones that will be in the bullfight that afternoon

10pm: Artificial Fire Bull - A fake lifesize bull packed with fireworks is lit and they run it through the streets. You are supposed to dodge the fireworks shooting out in every direction

11pm: Fireworks - Nightly firework show


I'm still feeling a little nervous, but its a good kind of nervous, not scared! I will do a few push-ups and sit-ups tonight to make sure i am in my usual perfect physical condition before i smoke a few packs of cigs. Anyway, i've got a lot i need to do today, post office, eat, shop, art museum, update my will....





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29th June 2011

RTVE, the spanish public tv makes every year a great coverage of the runs. Here you can watch last years complete runs: http://www.rtve.es/noticias/sanfermines/2010/ I wouldn't run for all the money in the world. At least it's great to see someone who has gathered all that valuable information. Good luck.

Tot: 2.564s; Tpl: 0.071s; cc: 13; qc: 27; dbt: 0.0264s; 2; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 2; ; mem: 1.4mb