This crazy festival, Running Of The Bulls, hit the tourist maps with Hemingway’s, The Sun Also Rises. There is live tv coverage of the event in many countries. Testosterone screams. Lauren Linzer, our guest expert, was there, freaked about the safety of her brother who ran. Every year, July 6 – 14 in Pamploma, the daring put on their red and white and run. Bulls are killed after the festival.
By Lauren Linzer
Three hours have now past since we found our sliver of fence to prop ourselves up on as we eagerly waited to see our companions run by. The hunger and exhaustion have past and at this point we are simply delirious. The others from our group have joined us, comfortably squatting behind the fence, and all of us are eagerly await the big show.
There is a sea of heads in front of us, packed into the narrow streets of the old town and pouring out into the clearing ahead. Thousands of adrenaline pumped runners are bouncing up and down, bursting at the seams with pent up excitement and anticipation. Spectators craning their necks, squeezing onto tiny balconies, and climbing anything they can find, fighting for a glimpse of what is to come. Reporters take their position and rescue workers prepare stretchers for the fallen ones. This continues for the next half hour. Finally a ripple of shouting and intensity rushes over the jumping participants.
The first bull tears through the crowd and a herd of men barrel past us. My hands full with cameras and trying to prop myself up on the wobbly post, I fix my eyes on the plethora of people running for their lives. The next several bulls run by in seconds. Desperately scanning the scene for my brother, all I can see is a mass of white shirts and red scarves, and the frantic expressions of those crazy enough to take on this adventurous endeavor. At last I catch a glimpse of one familiar face as my brother is triumphantly completing his mission.
It’s been less than five minutes since the run began and the crowd is already dwindling. Once the last of the runners reach our spot, we at last peeled ourselves off of the fence and began to make our way towards the bull ring, the bulls’ final destination. At this point, a new level of tiredness falls upon us as we approach the 24 hour mark of this sleepless adventure. Desperately, we search for my brother and friend becoming increasingly hopeless.
Finally, after an hour, the boys proudly march into sight, glowing with elation. We discover that after the run, the true dare devils convened at center stage within the bull ring to go toe to toe with young steers. With nothing but a thin layer of rubber separating the sharp tips of their horns with the novice “bull fighters”, the steers frantically bucked about and crazy thrill seekers got their fix. The boys share with us their unbelievable accounts of this rare experience.
My brother recalls: “There was a pack of guys, 30 of them or so, crouched down at the opening of the gate where the bulls run out. They expected the bulls to jump over them, but to their horror, one bull lowered his head and plowed right through the bodies. The craziest one of them all was a Texan, adorning his cowboy hat. He jumped on the back of one of the steers and rode him as if he was in a rodeo.”
Enthusiasm pumps us up with an essential second wind. There is nothing more to do than celebrate, so at 10 a.m., we find the nearest eatery where we pop a bottle of bubbly and share in the revelry over bottomless glasses of cava. We find ourselves in a new state of delirium and spend the afternoon roaming about the streets yet again, as parades march by, children and adults play in the streets, and a new batch of visitors join in the fun.
With nothing but a short siesta on the grass in the central plaza, we all are running on nonexistent fumes. Once arriving at the final anticipated event of our journey, a live outdoor concert by a local celebrated band, we are dead. Our mission has been accomplished: we squeezed as much excitement as possible out of our San Fermin weekend. Like sardines, we finally crash in our tiny hotel room, all seven of us somehow managing to carve out enough space to sleep. And in the morning, we hop back into our little car, saying farewell to San Fermin and still in a foggy state of disbelief about this incredible two days that we would always remember.
What is your opinion of the Running Of The Bulls Festival? Cruelty/fun/celebration/tradition?
Lauren Linzer, from Raleigh, North Carolina, gave up the day to day grind of corporate sales to embrace life in Spain as an English teacher and travel writer in Madrid and the Canary Islands. She is the author of Linzer’s Adventure, a travel blog sharing personal accounts of life on the road and living abroad. Read more about her experiences at: http://www.linzersadventure.com/