Running of the Bulls in Pamplona

Running with the bulls

We’ve done some pretty amazing things in our travels around the world but this ranks as the stupidest… and definitely the most dangerous.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and we happened to be in Europe when the San Fermin festival was taking place in Pamplona.  Before we knew it we were running down the street with some massive bulls hot on our tail.

Running with the bulls just after dead man's curve

It did take some planning to go running with the bulls but with the help of Mark from PamplonaBalconies.com we made it happen.  Mark suggested that we watch the running of the bulls from a balcony before you actually go running.  This was very good advice.  If you don’t plan your run you can kicked off the street by the police or worse yet you can get very injured.  My favorite quote from Mark was, “Running with the bulls is like playing russian roulette with a thousands chambers and one bullet”.

Here are some steps to make sure you have an enjoyable and safe run

  1. Line up before the gate at the Plaza del Mercado.  This is very important.  Anyone lined up on the street after the gate will get cleared off the street by the police.

    Plaza del Mercado

    Police cleared the street for the running with the bulls

  2. You have to wear proper San Fermin costume.  You don’t have to crazy like these guys… unless you want.

    San Fermin dress code

  3. Don’t bring a camera.  They don’t allow pictures to be taken on the street.  They say its for safety but I also think its for the local shops to sell there own pictures.  You can easily get around this by hiding a camera and only bring it out after they released the first bull (as I did with my gopro).  The police are gone once the first bull is released.

    Photographers getting kicked off the street for the running of the bulls

  4. Watch out for other people more than the bulls.  Most injuries occur from getting pushed, stepped on, punched, etc by the other runners NOT the bulls.

    Guy pushed by his fellow runners. Hit his head on the curb. I supposed it's better than getting bored by a bull.

  5. If it’s your first time running it’s best to line up after dead man’s corner.  2 reasons: 1) getting stuck in dead man’s corner is not good. 2) You want to get into the stadium for “play time” before they close the gate just after the last bull.

    Lining up for the running of the bulls

Prepared with this advice we got up very early the next day to make sure we were all lined up and in the right spot.  After an hour of nervously waiting around it was finally time.  The bulls were let loose and rapidly approaching where we chose to line up.  The bulls run the entire course in just over 2 minutes so it goes by very, very quickly.

Here come the bulls

Bulls rounding dead man's corner

Horn to close for comfort

Important rule: Try not to get stepped on

Running at a safe distance from the bulls

And before you know it… it was all over.  I felt a little bit like a chicken because I was a good 4 arm lengths away from the bulls.  I tried to get a little closer but there are a lot of people and by the time I pushed my way closer while running, the bulls had already passed by.  We did get into the stadium for “play time”.  This is when they let bulls out into the arena filled with people.  I’m not really sure of the point but some people tried to slap the bull on the butt, put cups on the horns, basically see how close you can get without getting knocked unconscious.  These bulls horns are capped so there isn’t a risk of getting gored.  Several people did need to be carried off the field though so it’s not that safe either.
Check out the video from my gopro during the run.  It didn’t turn out as I hoped but you can still get a blurry look at what its like.  I wanted that clear shot of my running directly in front of bull but that didn’t happen.  I guess I’ll just have to do it again sometime to get better first person footage.

I would definitely recommend you try this once.  It’s not as dangerous as people make it out to be if you are smart about it.  If you need help planning your trip give Mark at PamplonaBalconies.com a call.  He can take care of lodging, balcony reservations, bull fights, recommendations for restaurants, he even throws a VIP party every night if your interested.
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