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Published: August 14th 2010
We made it!
Just after the run.
This is something I have always wanted to do but something always seemed to come up that prevented me from going (mainly friends making excuses).
In April 2008 I got engaged and when we set a date for the wedding there was only one place I wanted my stag weekend and that was Pamplona and the festival of San Fermin, also known as the running of the bulls.
San Fermin starts on the 6th July and finishes on the 14th of July every year, at 8am every morning roughly 6-7 bulls, weighing approx 650kgs (about 1450lbs) each are released on to the streets and they run from their pen in to the bull ring about 800 metres away. The run is up a slight hill the entire time, especially at the beginning, there are only two turns, a sharp left followed almost instantly by a sharp right (this is where most people get hurt during the run). Traditionally the partying starts at 10pm, with a firework display every night and then people party through the night and finish their night with the bull run at 8am.
My first task was booking the trip. Most tour companies try to include the opening
or closing ceremony in the trip, but the opening ceremony fell on a Wednesday this year and the closing ceremony a Thursday. This is no good if you work Mon-Fri 9-5 and have limited holiday entitlement.
I booked a flight to the closest airport (Bilbao) that was a direct flight from London and then had to arrange transport from Bilbao to Pamplona.
On our flight were a group of guys already dressed in the traditional all white with a red scarf around the waist and a red hanky around the neck, they were on a stag weekend too and one guy was wasted (I felt sorry for the poor girls sat next to him on the flight!).
After a fairly short flight we took a bus from the airport to Bilbao coach station, from here it was about a two hour journey to Pamplona, the whole coach was full of people dressed all in white going to the festival.
From before we even left the airport in London I could not have stressed to my friends enough how much I wanted to run with the bulls. I know it was my stag weekend and that means getting very drunk, tied
to a lamp post and stripped naked for everyone to laugh and I was ready to take my punishment BUT I wanted to make sure I did the run first!!!
So the plan was the first night (Friday night) we have a couple of drinks and a meal then we have an early-ish night so we can all wake up early enough to run and after that we can all start the hardcore drinking that will ultimately result in me losing my dignity forever.
That was the plan!!!
Did we stick to it?
When we landed everyone and I mean EVERYONE was dressed head to toe in white with red scarf and hanky.
I didn't want us to stick out so after dinner we all got dressed in to our white outfits, it was around about this time that the peer prussure started.....come on lets all get drunk tonight, you will be fine for the run in the morning!
After I had a couple of drinks (I'm a light weight) I caved to the pressure and we decided to stay out all night and finish the party with the run in the morning.
The local drink is a mixture
of coke and red wine, so we started in a bar with that.
All the bars were quite small but you didn't need to really drink in the bars as everyone is on the streets. We saw a shop selling booze so bought 3 litres of vodka between 8 of us and carried it around with us, we bought some plastic cups and mixed it with coke and it lasted us a long time....I think.
As the night went on and my memory and speach began to go so too did my mates.
"I'm tired lets go back to the hotel and get a couple of hours sleep before the run"
I knew this would happen so being the stubborn pain in the a**e that I am I said no and stayed out and continued to drink.
My group of 8, that persuaded me to stay out when I wanted to be sensible, had become me and 2 others, although one of those did fall alseep for an hour on a bench (he still doesn't know what we did to him whilst he was asleep lol).
About 4ish I decided not to drink anymore as I didn't want to get
killed by a bull during the run because I was drunk. The atmosphere everywhere is buzzing all night so even though I stopped drinking it was still fantastic.
Around 6:30 two more of my friends that had gone back to the hotel called us and came back out so they could do the run, the other 3 slept through their alarms.....apparently!
We were already at the start of the run as we wanted to make sure we had a good position.
The sun began to rise and everyone started to talk about the run, you could see the adrenaline starting to kick in.
About 7am the police start walking through the crowd and fishing out people who look too drunk and throwing them out.
If you haven't got the right shoes on to run you're out, if you look too drunk you're out, even if you don't look drunk but you are covered in red wine from all the drunk people that have spilt their drinks on you, you're out!
It was a nervous time as after all this time drinking and buiding myself up if I get told I couldn't do the run because I was too drunk I'd
Luckily I didn't look too drunk, I felt sorry for the guy that fell asleep waiting for the run to start, he got thrown out.
We got talking to a couple of American guys who told us that they did the run the day before and started at the beginning and within seconds the bulls had past them and that was it, so they told us if we wanted to make it in to the bull ring to start further up.
We walked to the first turn and waited, it was 8am and people started to run, I wanted to run but I hadn't heard the rocket which signals the start of the race, then all of a sudden BANG. The rocket went off and the crowd cheered, loads of people began to run past I started to run too but I wanted to see the bulls so shouted to my friends to stop running and wait for a bit.
We were at the start of the last straight road, more and more people began to run past then one of my friends said "F**k you, you're going to get us killed. There are Spanish people running past us
that probably do this every year, I'm going". We started to jog up the road, I looked back and saw a wave of people starting to seperate at the start of the road, that's where the bulls were. I began to sprint, after a few seconds I looked back again and saw the wave of people getting closer. I continued to run dodging the people slowing down trying to see the bulls. I looked back again and all I could see were bulls horns, I started to literally run for my life, I looked back again and the bulls were about 5 feet away, I looked at the walls to see if there was anything I could jump onto as I knew if I continued to run I was going to get hurt.
All of a sudden it was like a vision from heaven, a wooden platform, I leapt on to it and hoped that as the bulls ran past they didn't spear my behind.
After they past I started to feel gutted as I hadn't made it to the bull ring, I took another 10-15 steps and there it was, the entrance to the bull ring, I'd made it!
Little did I know that there were still another 3 bulls behind me that still had to run into the ring, I ran into the ring jumped in to the air with my hands held high and then jumped over the edge, I'd done the run I didn't care about staying in the ring.
Once all the bulls are in the ring they close the doors and get all the bulls to run in to a pen at the side, they then release smaller bulls so that the people that made it into the ring can try to touch the buls with out getting hurt.
I found my friends and we stayed and watched as people tried to touch the bulls, we saw quite a few people succeed and quite a few get very badly hurt. One guy was out cold, so a couple of people grabbed an arm and a leg and through him out of the ring so the medics could see to him.
When we caught up with the others who "slept through their alarms" we told them about the run and now it was my turn to use peer pressure. We persuaded 2 of them to
do the run the next morning, so me and one of my friends who had already done the run decided to buy tickets to sit in the bull ring and watch as everyone ran in.
People began to run in before the bulls, the crowd began booing them and throwing plastics bottles filled with red wine, because they got in before the bulls, a bit harsh but fun to watch. Included in the group that got booed were our friends lol. Then in came the bullls and another round of 'lets try to touch the bull', needless to say more people got hurt.
The last day of our trip was the 11th of July, unfortunately we had tried to extend the trip by another night, as it was the world cup final and Spain were in it, but we couldn't as all the flights were fully booked. All was not lost though as our flight got delayed and we got to watch it at the airport on a pay as you go internet screen that had a screen about as big as a laptop lol. The funniest thing was every 10-15 minutes the money would run out and the screen
would go off followed by everyone watching it screaming and rushing to put money back in.
Over all an awesome weekend!
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