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BK's run with the Bulls -- Pamplona, Spain
** Full account of the bull run at the bottom of this page if you're interested.
Just prior to getting trampled by a bull -- got hit in the ribs and the shin as the bull trampled over the top of me -- minor injuries and a lot of fun :-)
Just after getting trampled -- had a big smile on my face after I realized it didn't hurt :-) The kids thought it was pretty funny.
The Bull Pens at the start of the course
Full Squad of Paramedics at the ready
Trading cards of the bulls running that day ...
Rocket marking the start of the run goes off at 8 am
This is where I waited with 2000 of my closest friends prior to the start -- just before the start they let you spread out on the course
Check out the guy on the ground in front of the bulls in the tuck position -- the bulls went around him (they don't like to step on things)
The narrow streets lead into "Dead Mans Corner" -- 2x 90 degree corners where the bulls are prone to fall down and get disoriented
Bulls falling on each other in Dead mans corner -- not good.
These two got turned around and disoriented -- not good. The next day a bull gored a Spaniard to death (1st death in 15 years)
The start of dead mans corner -- entering the square
Meanwhile, back in the arena -- matadors waiting for the bulls to lead them through the arena
Peg and the kids watched from the arena -- they said about 500 people showed up before they even saw a bull :-)
When the last bull enters the arena, they shut the gate shortly after and nobody else gets in.
Once the gate is shut, they start letting bulls back into the arena with rubber stoppers on their horns.
Some folks get caught smacking the bulls on the butt, etc.
This is me (picture below) just prior to getting nailed in the ribs and subsequently trampled :-) My bruised ribs have since healed ....
Grandma bull is sent out to retrieve the younger bulls who are charging at the runners
Oops, someone lost their pants ....
BK next to the blonde girl (walking away) ... There were a few girls/women that ran also.
Our friends and their kids with ours -- great seats for the bull action.
The bull chute into the Arena
Recovering from the Sangria parties the night before
The matadors fight the bulls that ran in the arena each night.
We stayed at a big lodge (built in the 1600's) on a dairy farm outside of town
This is the view from our back porch
The kids running the milking machines
If any of you are up for running with the Bulls anytime in the next 20 years, count me in .... I made a pact with my kids that when Brady turns 18 we'd all come back and run it again (18 is the minimum age) ... Game on.
Bull Run Summary
Got to the course about 7 am -- you have to get there before 7:30 or they close the course on you. I was tipped off the night before that they chase everyone off the course in front of 'dead man's corner" about 15 mins prior to the race, so I walked the entire course (only about 800 meters) quickly back to the bull pens to check it out. Walked back up the hill to dead mans corner and waited near the closure line with about 2,000 of my closest friends for about 30 minutes. At 7:30 they close the course in front of dead mans corner and chase everyone off most of the course (extremely narrow streets), then run the street sweeping crew through quickly to get the broken glass, etc, etc. off the course from the partying the night before.
Once the street sweepers clear, they let you spread out along the course anywhere you want. i walked a little ways up just past the corner ... I didn't want to be the idiot on the front page that got gored to death in "Dead Man's Corner" ... that wouldn't make a good epitaph. You can run the entire length of the course, but you can't beat the bulls (too many people and they're too speedy), and they close the gates to the bullfighting arena once the last bull gets inside, so I didn't want to miss out on the fun inside the arena by losing the footrace with the bulls. My plan was to run as soon as I saw the first bull come by me and try to beat the last one to the arena while running alongside of them ... it worked !
So an experienced bull runner I'm standing next to is telling his crew of "City Slickers" midlife crisis fellas all about the run so I eavesdropped ... At 8 am the rocket goes off in the square announcing the start of the run ... at that point a ton of folks (first timers) will start running at you like madmen scared for their lives (because they really are), he says you have to hold your ground on the course and wait for the first two waves of people to pass you by. Peg and the kids were in the arena and said there were about 500 or more people that ran into the arena before the first bull -- that's not running with the bulls in my book, that's just running ... these folks mostly jumped the arena wall into the stands right away as they didn't have their life insurance paid up ... anyway ... so the guy says they'll let the bulls go at two minutes after 8 and it will take them about 20 seconds to make their way to where we were waiting. So I stand my ground for about two minutes and start slowly jogging in anticipation of seeing the first bull. All off a sudden I look to my right and see two 2500 pounders about 2 feet from me (a bit quicker than I was ready for) ... so I start to sprint and put my hand out to fend off any possible deadly contact with said bulls. I touched the side of the brown one (he was either the first or second in the pack) as he ran by -- I remember thinking "Wow -- a little close for comfort but that was pretty cool" .... two more bulls run by as I'm running towards the arena ... You can't see where the bulls are or how many are coming until they're on top of you because the crowd is surrounding them and the bulls run with their heads down.
So I'm almost to the arena at the top of the ramp and suddenly there's a huge pile of people in front of me down on the ground (maybe 10-15 people) ... they tell you before the race that if you fall just to stay down until the last bull goes by because the bulls don't like to step over or on things. I'm thinking -- yeah, right, watch me just lay on the ground anticipating a 2500 lb hoof landing on me -- not. ... BUT, it turns out that's the only thing most people remember so they're all staying on the ground. I can't go around them because the bulls are in the center of the narrow passageway. So adrenaline kicks in even more and I start pushing the big guy in front of me as hard as I can to get through the pile on the ground. He gets out of my way up against the corral and I run over the top of maybe 4-5 people stacked 2 deep to get over the pile. When I get over the pile I'm only about 30-40 feet from the mouth of the arena (tunnel is about 40 feet long once you're in it) -- I look back quickly to see a huge Bull about 20-30 feet behind me ... More adrenaline kicks in and I sprint as fast as I've ever run the 40 yd dash into the arena. I remember thinking I can't stay in this tunnel or I'm toast (You recall the video where the bulls trample the people who are bottlenecked in the tunnel -- yeah, me too and it's all I could think about at this point) ... I sprint into the arena and take a hard left as soon as I see daylight in the arena ... I hop up on the ledge holding onto the fence with my heart beating about a zillion times a minute -- HOLY CRAP, what just happened ....
The entire run only takes about 45 seconds from start to finish for the bulls, and most people only spend about 20-30 seconds on the course after they let the bulls out, so it really is 30 seconds of mayhem -- your adrenaline is so high all you have time to do is react. -- But WOW, what an experience, the two guys standing next to me were about to have a heart attack -- one of them was still worked up to the point of almost hyperventilating about 5 minutes later :-)
Part 2 (The Bullfighting Arena) -- So I heard the night before that once you're in the arena and the doors are closed, they let bulls out one at a time to let people "play" with if they haven't had enough adrenaline yet ... most people apparently didn't hear this because when they let the first bull out you'd have thought they dropped a bomb -- people scattered like ants when that first black bull came back into the arena. They put rubber stoppers on the end of these bulls' horns so they can't gore anyone, but they are still very dangerous and hurt quite a few people in the arena (a full complement of paramedics on scene) ... So at first I'm thinking -- I survived I don't need to press my luck ... but after about 5 minutes when my heart calmed down a bit and I saw that a few hundred people were playing around with the bull, I thought "Why the heck not, you only live once" ... so when the 2nd bull came out I got in the game baby ... I started slapping the bulls on the butt when they had their backs turned.
After about 10 minutes of letting people get thrown around pretty well by the bull, they let a gigantic bull in the ring to herd the smaller bull out of the arena (we'll call this large bull - "Grandma Bull") ... Well, the first time Grandma bull came up behind me unannounced, I almost wet myself and jumped right back up on the wall ... After seeing that Grandma was basically harmless I later slapped Grandma on the backside as well just for scaring the crap out of me the first time ... The others that they let play with the crowd were only about 1000-1500 pounders (Smaller than the fighting bulls that ran in the Bull run, but much quicker when they charge, which they did frequently) ... So I followed another black one around and successfully slapped him on the back (aimed for the ass again but it turned on me so I hit his back then ran like a little girl) .... BK - 3, Bull - 0 .... I went for my 4th touch and wasn't so lucky this time, I touched the bulls' head and it turned and went after me ... I peeled out to the left and lost my footing, hitting the dirt -- luckily it went after another spectator and I got up and smiled like I got away with one :-) BK - 4, Bull 0.
Bulls' Revenge -- So I'm feeling a little good about my quick catlike reflexes and thinking -- now THIS is what I came for (the excitement) ... So I can't remember if I was going after the last bull or I just found myself not trying to get away like the rest of the crowd that scattered like ants each time the bull charged, but I do remember being behind the bull and walking towards him ... then suddenly the bull swiveled on a dime (maybe my cologne ??) and came straight at me ... If you zoom the first picture in the page above, I'm the guy in the middle of the picture in front of the bull just behind the guy in the purple shirt/pants (He was Sangria soaked from the night before) ... ... Long story short, he comes straight at me (Sangria boy dodges a bullet), and he hits me head on in the ribs on the right side (horns go down both sides of me and miss me altogether somehow) ... he must have hit me pretty hard because I couldn't lift anything over 10 lbs the next day without hurting (bruised ribs are healed now) --- anyway, I get thrown forward and go down to try to avoid the trample -- nope, he tramples right over the top of me, but luckily misses everything but a glancing hoof blow on my right shin ... This happened right in front of Peg and the kids and the kids say he trampled right over the top of me -- they said they didn't know it was me until I got up and ran towards them with a big smile on my face :-) I jumped up and run away (zoom the second picture above and I'm on the lower left running towards the camera) -- smiling from ear to ear once I see the bull has run off the other direction and I'm unhurt -- I pickled the beast and came away unscathed ... Well worth it -- BK - 4, Bull - 1.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience that I'll never forget ... the kids all loved seeing the bullfights and especially liked watching dad get trampled :-)
I'm up for doing it again next year or any year after that if any of you can make it over this way -- FANTASTIC experience that you'll never forget -- I promise you ... even for an adrenaline junkie like me, it didn't disappoint ....
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