Posted by: rngerlach | July 13, 2007

The Day We Ran With Bulls

“Trenta minutos a Pamplona, trenta minutos,” the train attendant yelled into our sleeper couchette of the night train from Barcelona to Pamplona. The time read 5:05am as our train that left Barcelona at 10pm was due to arrive in Pamplona at 5:30am. Thus the beginning of one of the longest, most culturally-filled days of my life. We arrived with a little over 2 hours before the guns shot for the Running of the Bulls. Enough time to shake out the cobwebs, buy our red and white outfits for the day to celebrate the San Fermin festivities, and to store our luggage. Walking through the streets at 6am, people were still stumbling out of the bars from a long night of drinking and the putrid scent of vaumit laced the streets. At this point, I knew we were in for a long day. Fortunately, we lined up in front of the pack for the actual running and we met four American guys from Chicago, three of whom are professors at Northwestern Universtity while the other is a professor at UCLA. This was the fourth time they had participated in the event so they were giving us a coaching and pre-run pep talk on how not to fall down and avoid being severely inured. Apparently, if you happen to fall in the running, you are supposed to stay down and tuck into a ball as then the bulls will avoid you. Yet if you try to raise back up and keep running, you put yourself in immediate danger since that is when bulls lay their force into you which usually ends in severe inury or even death.

BAM! The first gun shot fires and we begin running, the first gun shot signals for those who want a head start to begin running, you better believe Dana and I were in that crowd. Then the second shot fired which means the bulls have been released. We slowed down near just past “Dead man´s corner” which is the halfway point of the 0.5 mile run. It is a 90 degree turn that the bulls always take with a wide turn into the walls because of their mass momentum. The mass of people are coming our way quickly, which is when I took off running like Forrest Gump, I didn´t look back. Fortunately, I beat the bulls into the arena. As I ran through the corridor to the arena pumping adrenaline, I took a sharp cut left into the arena and posted against the wall. A mere 5-7 seconds later the crowd roared and I saw two guys being trampled through the opening and the herd of massive raging bulls came storming through. I completely underestimated the size of the bulls. I became even more terrified once I saw their size. The bulls ran through as the steers followed them to the closing doors of the arena. Then little did we know the fun was just beginning.

The let a smaller bull into the arena without letting you know and the mass of people are left to defend themselves against these fearful bulls. Even these bulls are nothing to mess with, however some of the people must have grown up on farms since they were taking on the bull without any fear and trying to wrestle with it. With little surprise, the bull won every time. I got close enough to touch it as it went by me as I did my best shuck and jive to avoid it. That was enough for me as I hopped out of the arena immediately and watched the bull endlessly up end human beings left and right. I had never been so awake for 9am in my life, blood pumping and fear still running through my mind from the massive size of the bulls I had just ran in front of.

The rest of the day consisted of celebrating with many bottles of 3€ Sangria, watching bull fights, parades, music festivals, and celebrating everything the way the Spanish do. It was by far the most culturally filled day I have ever experienced. A long day it was as we continued all the way until our train left Pamplona at 1am back to Barcelona. My only regret is that we did not stay to party the night through. It seemed as if the party was just beginning when we were leaving. However, I am not sure if my body could have handled any more of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona. Exhausted and delirious on the train back to Barcelona, I passed out with one of the best days in my life coming to an end. There was no way I ran with bulls is the only thing that kept passing through my mind until the REM sleep took over and we were back in Barcelona the next morning at 9am.

I must thank Mikey for urging us to run with the bulls. I would have never considered it before in my life until he put it in our minds. The San Fermin festival granted us one of the best days of the trip and of our lives in general. All I have to say is Viva San Fermin and Respect the Bulls!



  1. Robin, I’m happy to hear that you made it with out any serious injuries or mishaps. I can’t even imagine what it is like to know that there is a mob of 1000 lb beasts breathing down your neck as you run all out. Man vs. Beast and you won….

  2. Ole!!……. Ole!!!!!….. Ole!!!!

    That is the last thing I remember before the shots were blasted and chaos ensued on those streets last year!!! So stoked that you did it! It’s like a rite of passage for travelers in Europe. Congrats buddy!

    Those beasts look big, but once your ass is right next to one of those toros, you realize you are pretty much being chased by a vw BUG! hah. What’s left for us to do… Great Wall of China and Party in Rio for Carnavale!!! yeah son what’s up!

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