The Running of the Bulls was last week, which means you only have 355 days to train for next years event, so why not get in on it early? Unlike the author of “How To Survive Running With the Bulls”, I’ve never been gored by a bull, so my advice is probably better than his. My number one tip in regards to not being gored is to not run with any bulls. It’s inherently dangerous. That’s also the entire point, so now that I’ve covered the “Don’t do dangerous things” part of it, let’s get into the details.
The running of the bulls in Pamplona is a world famous festival in Spain that brings in thrill seekers from around the world. Festival? Check. Europe? Check. Young adrenaline junkies? Check. That’s a recipe for being drunk for eight days in a foreign country. It’s also a recipe for ending up on the wrong end of a bull. The number one tip for not being gored while running with the bulls is to not be drunk while you do it. That probably seems obvious, but lots of runners decide that liquid courage will help when the bulls arrive. Going along with this, Spain in July is hot. Really hot. Just like any other physical activity try to stay rested and hydrated, at least until you’ve finished your run. We’d say make sure, but realistically a try is the best we’ll be able to get out of being at a 400 plus year old festival dedicated to bravado and manliness.
If you’ve never run before, take a few days and watch what happens. There are eight days of bulls running, which means you have a couple to scope out the situation and figure out your own personal optimal not-getting-trampled strategy. Pure self interest aside, police and event organizers will pull people out of the crowd if they look like they don’t know what they’re doing, which is to say foreign and nervous. So just take a few days and figure out your game plan.
Don’t start at the beginning. Just like how there are different course difficulties on a ski slope, there are different starting points on the run. Starting at the beginning with a mob of drunk, inexperienced people that probably haven’t listened to this advice is a good way to get hurt before you even see a bull. There’s an affectionately named section of the course named “Dead Man’s Corner”, which my long mis-remembered high school Spanish tells me means “Start after here.” Speaking of corners and running with bulls, take your corners close. Just like big cars, big animals aren’t known for their tight and nimble cornering and swing wide.
This is going to sound somewhat surprising, but your biggest fear shouldn’t be the bulls. You should be more afraid of your fellow runners. Assuming you can run at even a slightly decent clip, you can get away from the bull. Your biggest safety issue is going to be taken down by any of the drunk, adrenaline junkies next to. When your mind is focused on the 2,000 pound bull, you don’t look down to see if you’re running on cobblestone or someone’s face. If you end up going down, curl into a ball and cover your head and neck. You’ll end up bruised and sore, but you should escape major injury. In the last 423 years of the festival the spectators have realized that things don’t always go well for the runners and have a tradition of their own. Once all the bulls and other runners are gone, spectators will walk towards the arena and let any fallen runners know that everything is all clear.
If you ever get a chance to channel your inner Hemmingway and make it to Pamplona, hopefully your run goes well and you come home with all the pieces you started the trip with and a great story.