Was it fun? Yes! Would I do it again? NO!
Every year in the second week of July, there is a festival in the city of Pamplona, North of Spain. The participants of the festival, paying tribute to the protective angel of the city San Fermin, wear white clothes and tie a red scarf around their neck.
In this festival, origins of which goes back a long way, I drank till sunrise, danced with complete strangers and from all those other festivals I have participated, this one was the one I enjoyed most.
The most important and well-known activity of this festival, where tens of thousands of people have fun wildly, is undoubtedly the “encierro” – the running of the bulls.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the image hundreds of people in white running from the angry bulls that are chasing them ferociously in the narrow streets of Pamplona. And maybe even the image of people who got their share from the horns and people who got ridden over by the beasts are familiar to you.
In this very festival, I ran in front of those bulls…
At 9 a.m. I was ready for the run. I wore my white clothes, tied my red scarf, slept only for 2 hours, exceeded my limits of alcohol and like all those other people I was about the run with, I was so fresh if you blew on me I would fell over and I was one hell of a runner!
I advenced to the front lines of the crowd. In my mind I was thinking “the bulls will come from behind and there will be hundreds of people between them and me, there is no way they can find me in this crowd.” We were going to run for 5 minutes maximum, the bull was going to enter the arena and we were going to return the bar we had been last night to eat something and continue partying from where we left off.
The flare gun was fired and all hundreds of us started running simultaneously. After 20-30 seconds of running I wondered if the bulls were anywhere near me and what was going on so I turned around to look. You wouldn’t believe what I saw! There were no signs of the hundreds of people that I thought were behind me. Just 30 maybe 40 people eyes wide open running for their lives!
I kept on running fast, thinking to myself “ Where are those bulls anyway?”. Then I heard the ringing of the bells. At that point fear took hold of me. I was able to hear not only bells of the animals but also their approaching footsteps, fastly. Thousands of people watching from their balconies started to cheer and clap. That meant the bulls were just a few steps behind me now.
It was time to make decision; whether I should take cover behind a relatively safe spot and let the animals pass without hurting me or keep running faster. However, even though it had just been a minute since I started running, I felt no power in met o speed up and I was about die from fear. I lied in the corner of a wall and as an instinct I covered my head with my arms –in my own ability- and then the bulls ran right pass me. I was very lucky, they didn’t step on me, fell over me or got angry and pierced me with their horns.
(On that days run, two people were severely injured among many others, but fortunately no one died.)