Running With The Bulls in Pamplona 2017
July 14, 2017
Location: sitting in the Panaria cafe in Valencia, Spain
Time: 12:01 pm
It’s 3 days after the run and I still get goosebumps thinking back on this. The last few days have been pretty crazy. We left Pamplona, where the actual run was a few hours after the run and weren’t 100% sure where we were going to go… so last minute we ended up going to the train station and booking tickets to Valencia… a very nice city closer to the ocean in southern Spain.
While on the train, I decided to pull out my phone and write out an overview of the emotions, thoughts and everything that I experienced the day before, the night before, day of and during the Running With The Bulls event at the Festival of San Fermin Pamplona.
I’m not going to act all brave and tell you I had my shit together the whole time coming up to the run, because…well, I didn’t.
It was similar to how I felt before swimming with sharks in the Bahamas… Pretty nervous, but excited.
Okay so let’s get right into it…
the night before my girlfriend Sam and I had the pleasure of wandering around the town a little bit and seeing just endless crowds of people with white shirts, pants and red handkerchiefs and belts EVERYWHERE. It was truly an incredible site.
At around 10pm we headed back to the hotel and I started reading EVERYTHING I could about the running. Peoples stories of strategies, where to be, what to do, everything I could.
Sam also found where she would be for the run… ABOVE the bulls up in a balcony, like a normal, sane, human… unlike myself.
She found a great balcony overlooking Dead Man’s Corner
While I was reading through all of these peoples blog post encounters, just like you’re doing right now, I came across one that mentioned that every night at 23:00 (11 pm) there was an epic fireworks show. I looked at the clock, and it was 22:40 (10:40pm) just in time for us to walk out, grab a beer and watch the fireworks.
It was pretty impressive, although from the blog post I read it promised to be the best firework show anyone would ever see. Turns out I got really spoiled living in Orlando, Florida because I was right down the road from Disney and SeaWorld who both did unbelievable firework shows…and I’d see them pretty much every night.
I also worked at Universal Studios as one of my last jobs (bartending) so I was able to see amazing shows there as well.
Okay, back to the story… after the fireworks show was over, we headed home and decided to go to bed because I wanted to wake up around 6 to make sure I was ready for the run, even though it officially didn’t start until 8am.
4am: woke up… went back to sleep
5am: woke up again.. went back to sleep
I was both nervous and excited, so kept waking up not wanting to miss it.
5:45am: got up and out of bed and felt a calming sensation come over me. The dream I had left me assured i’d be fine.
6:30am I start walking towards the square extremely nervous
6:45 follow a few different groups of people until I find the actual course
7-7:30 walk up and down the course a few times and I see Sam up in the balcony she’s watching from
Fear subsides a bit and I feel a sense of calm come over me.
I start chatting with a kid from Seoul and it’s his first time there as well. Chat with him a little but then the cops come to clear off the street. They told us we needed to go to a different spot..
7:35 cops close the steeet and make everyone get off the track
I see a group jogging down side streets and ask a policeman if there is another spot to get on the track and he tells me yes and to follow the crowd pointing to the group running down these side streets.
7:40 I arrive at a spot close to the beginning (near Santo Domingo) and see people crawling under a fence.
At this point, I think “well, I could just watch from the fence here and be safe“
I mean, it’s crazy to run with bulls. It’s insanity. They’re HUGE…right?
Well, 5 seconds later I realize I came to run and I will run. It is decided.
I climb under the fence and start stretching and jumping around keeping my muscles warm.
7:50 I overhear the group next to me chatting and one guy told his friend he didn’t look well… guy was sweating and a little nervous looking so I patted him on the shoulder and told him he’s got this. I then ask him a few positive questions to get him present.
Tells me he’s from North Dakota and here with his friends and wives. Turns out Sam was in the same balcony as the wives (and one of the husbands who nailed)
He starts smiling and I wish him luck.
7:55 5 minutes until the release. Stretch and breath
The next 5 minutes flew by and I was just jumping up and down and stretching. Chatting a little bit to a group from the midwest USA… turns out Sam was up in the balcony with these 3 guys’ wives. Small world, huh?
…. the clock ticks closer and closer and the crowd starts getting louder…
8:00 the first firework goes off symbolizing the first bull has left… and maybe 10 seconds later the next.
I see the people in the balcony watching and cheering, cop taps me on the shoulder and yells ‘corre!’ And I jump off the wall quick to run.
About 5-7 seconds later the crowd is crazy, about 3 people between me and the center of the street… everyone pushes to the sides as the bulls approach and come flying past. My head is swiveling from side-to-side looking for both people, the street and the bulls. I spot the first bull of the group coming around behind me and a half second later its directly to my right.
There’s 2 guys to my right and the first bull flies right past, doing what it wants to do… get clearly through the pack without running into anything or anyone.
The next second the rest of the pack is there… I’m basically at a very slow jog because EVERYONE rushes to the sides and slows down. All the bulls run past and…
My adrenaline is pumping like crazy. I read how its super fun to get into the arena at the end of the run and see the excitement of the crowd once you arrive. So, I decide to run behind with the rest of the people who chose to run.
After about 5 seconds, I see an older gentleman who was knocked down and ask if he was ok. He pointed to his hip and smiled to signify he was okay… I offer a hand, but he declined so I kept running.
I follow the bulls far enough behind to not distract (as the rules stated to do) and follow them all the way to the arena. I’ve got tears of joy in my eyes… and they don’t seem to stop.
The whole way i’m running, I have cotton mouth and am just grinning from ear to ear… to the sides of the street I see a few people on the ground holding their legs or hips or shoulder but didn’t see anything too bad. No one was gored in this run, thankfully.
At the turn sam was at, I look up and see her and try to yell hello.. my cotton mouth is too bad and I can’t get the words out. She turns and goes back in the apartment before I can get her attention, so I sprint off towards the arena.
I get closer to the arena and some of the cops are yelling that it’s time to close the gate… I sprint ahead to make sure I get inside… once inside, I immediately run to the side of the arena as I was told to do in a few of the posts I read.
I’m very teary eyed.
But i’ve got a big ass grin on my face and tears of joy rolling down my face. Everyone is hugging and taking pictures and cheering.
Thousands of people in the stands are cheering and I tear up again. This happens about 5 different times where an overwhelming feeling of joy hits me. It’s crazy.
Once you’re in the arena, they let other new bulls inside the arena… fresh bulls, not the ones that just ran… I move even closer to the wall.
Here’s the official statement of what happens once inside the bullfight arena (Plaza de Toros)
“Immediately after the Bull Run (encierro) heifers (vaquillas) are released in the bullfight arena (Plaza de Toros). They will chase all the runners who made it into the arena. It is less dangerous to be hit by a heifer, especially because their horns are taped. However, they can cause damage and one man has been paralyzed from being hit.”
As soon as these heifers get back into the arena, I stay and watch some people dodging them and seeming to play around with the heifers. One makes its round and then exits… after that a countdown happens and another is rushed in…
And then a countdown begins. I was hoping it would be for a cheer or something…
Turns out it was for another massive heifer. It runs around the arena and appears to be heading in my direction. All the people are moving towards my side of the wall. I’m about 2 people off the wall, but theres still a lot of people in front of me closer to the center of the arena.
The heifer starts in our direction…The crowd runs directly towards the wall and I’m about the 3rd person out of 5 off of the wall now. I’m pretty nervous… but then the bull stops, and decides to run the other way. Maybe another person got its attention and directed it away from our side..
Either way, I find the nearest exit and get out of the ring as soon as possible…. I remember Sam was going back to the hotel after so I could meet up with her, so I decide to head back. I’m teary eyed and jacked up out of my mind with adrenaline.
That really just happened.
Fuck. That happened.
I did it.
Big ass grin on my face and more tears of joy.
I read that most of the runners grab a beer after the run to calm themselves down a bit and I see quite a few runners in a pub immediately outside the arena and I decide to join them in the mini-celebration.
I order a beer and watch a little bit of the re-run to see what happened on the run… nothing bad comes up and I’m happy.
And just smile.
Here’s a few videos of the run that I was in that took place on July 11, 2017… the 5th day of the Running of the Bulls.
Here is a longer video of the full run: