Ahhh Pamplona. We were lucky enough to arrive the day before the opening ceremony of San Fermin, the running of the bulls. If anyone knows how to party, it’s the Spanish. With accommodation selling out months in advance we were lucky to be a 15 minute walk away from the city centre.
On our first day we walked to the opening ceremony, got covered in sangria and spent the day dancing and singing through the streets with marching bands. Definitely an awesome way to start our stay. There aren’t any runs or bull fights on the first day but everyone was partying hard for the first run the next morning. Although the Spanish can party, they can also sleep. Anywhere. Any time. It seemed that no matter how long everyone was out or how much they drank, they were able to pull through and keep going after a little siesta.
On our second day we got to the run too late to get a good spot but being in the crowd with everyone cheering as the bulls ran past was enough to convince us to get a spot on the barrier the next day. Once the run finished, we headed back to our room for a siesta and to get into the swing of the local lifestyle.
The way that the festival is set out means that we were basically nocturnal and back to Australian time. We slept during the day, mainly waking for food and a little wander, then had dinner in time for the 11pm fireworks that are held every night during the festival. After that there’s live music in the city centre and a carnival. We definitely had the best time at the carrival. A few locals had a bit of a giggle at us squealing on the rides but hey, we were having a ball.
Once we had had enough adrenaline for the night we headed back into the centre of the city and walked around with a marching band then sat on the grass and listened to some live music. Once four o’clock struck, it was time to find where the barriers were going to be put up and guard that spot. We found a spot on Dead Mans Corner, the name says it all. We basically set up camp standing on the spot there the barrier was to be put in around six o’clock.
Others started turning up around five and six. The garbage man came through, then the street sweeper then a man with a gerni and finally the men with the barriers. Once the barriers were up and secure it was elbows out as we climbed up to the top level. The barriers are the same height as me so it was a bit tricky but after standing there for hours, I wasn’t giving up my spot any time soon.
Then the wait continued. A cracker is sounded just before the run then the runners chant, find their spot and wait for the second cracker to say the bulls are coming. The second cracker went off and the runners were just as quick to react. First, they let out six bulls. Being on Dead Mans Corner, there was a medics bay set up that also had police ready to drag people off the road and pull people over the barriers. And they did. One man we saw come over looked easily 70 years of age. I won’t forget the look of fear on the runners faces as they crawled and jumped under and over the barrier, yelling for help from anyone that could reach them.
Unfortunately for one man, he was on the wrong side of the turn. The corner is generally dangerous because it’s too sharp for the bulls which either results in them separating and panicking or falling over. This man didn’t make it through the barriers. With all of the spectators lined up, he couldn’t find a gap and ended up curled in a ball while a bull gored him about three times and broke his neck. Another runner distracted the bull and spectators were able to pull this man up and over the barrier and call for assistance.
Once the six bulls had passed, majority of the medics were over the barrier and across the road however one of the bulls got separated just after the corner and started running back the other way, causing runners to turn around and scramble to get over, through or under the barriers. When that bull had turned back around and continued the right way, medics were able to bring the man across the road and into their bay before another four bulls were released.
The run lasted for just over six minutes, about twice as long as the average run and has been said to be the most dangerous run since 2007. In total there were seven gored and there have been rumours that the man with broken neck died but nothing has been reported as of yet. Two of my friends were crazy enough to do that run but lucky enough to get out of it, though they did have their near misses.
That night we were out for the fireworks again and of course the carnival where we were recognised by the staff from the night before. After our fair share of rides knowing it was our last night at the carnival, it was back to bed for an early start to get a spot in the stadium for the finishing of the run the next morning. Unfortunately we got there too late and it was full so we watched the run on a screen in the street. It didn’t go for as long but it’s been reported that a man has died after a bull gored him and punctured his lung with another two men also gored.
The run is definitely not for the faint hearted. Traditionally women aren’t meant to run and I wasn’t going to argue with that though some women did run with one woman falling in front of a bull and her husband grabbing the bull by the horns to pull it in a different direction. Incredible stuff.