I am one of the participants who experience six minutes of terror every morning of San Fermín, a festival that honors the saint of the region in my hometown of Pamplona, Spain.San Fermín takes place annually from July 6 to 14. Around two million people visit Pamplona during this week to participate in the most popular event of the week, the Running of the Bulls. In Spain, we call them encierros.
I always felt impressed by the beauty of the bulls running with the mozos. Once I was old enough to run and keep up, I immediately took that opportunity to join our tradition.
A lot of people wonder what is the purpose of the running of the bulls, and honestly, it does not have any purpose. However, it is a tradition that makes my hometown different from all other cities.
Every day during San Fermín, thousands of people go downtown to participate in a unique experience. First, the runners gather together in order to ask for protection. This is done by going to a statue of San Fermín and singing this saint’s representative song three times. The event begins at 8 a.m. when the first firecracker is lit to announce the release of the bulls from their corral. A second cracker signals that the last bull has left the corral.
Six fighting bulls and six oxen run to the arena (plaza de toros) and at the same time people try to run with them, taking the risk of being hit by one of these bulls. The usual hustle and bustle of the streets comes to a halt for a period of time to allow the bulls to run with the participants, who are dressed in white and red.
During that week, I wake up at 6 a.m. every morning to get ready for the run. A well-balanced breakfast always helps me start the day better. Once my morning routine is complete, I head downtown and get myself warmed up for the run. This takes about 45 minutes. The warm-up is a crucial part of my day because there is such a high risk of getting injured or even dying during the run. I have to give 110% every race.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t get nervous, though the nerves don’t hit me until about 7:50 a.m. when we take our spots. This is also the time when a wave of regret comes over most people.
I always try to learn from veteran runners. Watching them maneuver through the streets and dodge bulls are some skills that I try to imitate.
When it is time to run with the bulls, my thoughts cease and everything is silent. There are thousands of people but I can only see twelve huge bulls running for me.
The moment when the bulls are next to me is simply amazing. The adrenaline comes to my body and I run faster than I ever have before. It is a sprint, so you cannot continue this pace the entire race, just several hundred meters. In 2013, I lived one of the scariest moments of my life in those streets because I lost my right shoe when I was next to a bull. When I finish running and am out of danger, I feel happiness and the power of being able to run with twelve bulls.
This past year, one of my closest friends from West Virginia came to Pamplona to participate in the Running of the Bulls. He was amazed by this event and he always says that it is an experience that he will never forget.
In my opinion, running with the bulls is an experience that, if done properly, everyone should try at least once in their lives.