A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” -Bob Dylan
I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach. This is why we were here. We quickly got ready as it was about 5am and needed to get a good spot to run. We haven’t really eaten anything since about 6pm the day before. It rained the night before so the roads were slick. I was nervous that with all that has happened, something bad would happen today. I was nervous that all of this was an omen to come. Regardless, we all got ready and headed out into the morning. I kept my mind positive…I would not die today. Rather, this would be one of the best moments of my life.
How often do you honestly think that?
The smell of vomit, the bathroom and an all-night party filled my nostrils as we got closer and started walking deep into the streets if Pamplona. Everyone looked very drunk as it was 5am and people were still partying and celebrating this unique festival. I still can’t get over the fact that people risk their lives to run from bulls and celebrate by drinking sangria all throughout the night. It’s such a strange and unique tradition and well known event. I’m not sure I get it.
As we pushed our way through the drunken crowd, we made our way to the most dangerous part of the run, the very beginning. As you get closer, the bells of the bulls ring and another wave of butterflies fill the stomach. Inside the cage, we saw the beasts. Five pretty big bulls with huge bells around their neck. It was fairly empty right by the starting area, which wasn’t a surprise. The bulls smelled of a unique musk yet seemed quite calm. Maybe I should take the hint.
After grabbing a couple pictures, we went to get some coffee and wake up for what was about to happen.
While drinking out hot coffee, we find a location where Adina could take photos (and a place to duck and cover). We found a place right after the initial first uphill stretch. We set our meeting point and the three of us walk back a little while to our starting area.
It was strange that it seemed most of the people running were foreigners like us. We met several people from the States, some from Australia and some locals. Yea, we were in a crowd of crazy people.
As we stood there, Tim got his camera ready. This is why we were here and we have got to get footage! As he prepared his camera, Jason and I noticed some police officers walking our way. Uh oh, no bueno. The officers were going through the crowd trying to find people to kick out (for filming or being intoxicated). We quickly stow away the camera and get past this first wave.
A little while later we notice that a line of police officers were moving in. They were pushing people out of the run. We realized we went too far and would be kicked out. Runners need to be in a certain area that is close to the starting cage or else you will get kicked out just like us. We decide to get out of there and we start sprinting to the starting area. No way we would be kicked out. This is why we were here and we WILL do the run.
After circling the running area, we finally find a spot to settle. We’re back in the game.
We are standing next to a crazy Australian who is jumping up and down and stretching. We start up a casual conversation and find out that this is his second time doing the run and he was back to actually touch the bull this time.
Knocking off one of those todo’s from the bucket list I see.
He reinforces a couple key tips. Firework 1 means first bull is out. Firework 2 means last bull is out. Firework 3 means all bulls are in the arena and get your butt in there before you get locked out. Also, don’t jog, sprint. Bulls will catch up to you.
Then it all sank in.
“Olé Olé Olé…Olé…Olé” rang through the streets of Pamplona. I felt the fire ignite inside my body. It’s going to start.
A huge firework is sent up into the morning sky and explodes with a huge bang. The first bull has been released!
I turn to see the Australian, who was already sprinting down to the arena. We start to jog with the rest of the group. I find that I’m constantly looking back to see when I should be sprinting. All of a sudden you see a MASSIVE crowd running for their lives. No, this is no cross country meet. People are literally running for their life. Oh Sh*t. The second firework goes off.
I start sprinting through the crowd. I immediately lose both Jason and Tim…but at this point it doesn’t matter. Remember the rule of the running of the bulls, just run. I take one look back and see a horn of a bull. They are closing in. You can’t outrun a bull and now is no time to be a hero. I quickly dart to the side and find a small gap between two walls.
I watch as the massive crowd passes me by and the bulls are continuing to charge full force, not stopping for anything or anybody.
As soon as the last bull passes with the herders, I jump back out and sprint as fast as I could. I need to get into the arena. The bulls move quickly and I hear the third firework go off. That was quick! RUN FASTER!
But it was too late. Up ahead a gate was closing and all of us were trapped outside the arena. I hear cheers from the people in the stands. I’m too late. Or so I thought.
All of a sudden, the gate is released and all of us push through. We’d make it into the arena! Running as fast as I could I see it. Your feet soon switch from cobblestone to sand. The light hits your face and you are soon standing in the middle of a large coliseum with I assume thousands of onlookers cheering you on. Boy it was a sight to see. Thinking only those who run with the bulls have the opportunity to stand in the center of the stadium. Looking around you’d see other runners giving each other high-fives, celebrating the feat they just accomplished.
We made it.