Amidst this sea of red and white, I quietly wait for the shit to hit the fan. I can see on the faces of everyone around me that each person is coping differently with the suspense of what is to come. Most people are in good spirits, joking and laughing in a state of purposeful denial. Some are focused so intently that they look like complete psychopaths about to snap and go on a killing spree. And some are quite obviously just plain terrified. They have every right to be. This is not a game. Many people have been crushed, stampeded and even gored doing what we are about to do. And some have even been unfortunate enough to loose their lives.
Where we are at is on a 780 meter stretch of cordoned off street in Pamplona, Spain. Where we are at is surrounded by people all wearing the same stylish white shirt/pants and red neckerchief/belt combination. Where we are at is the infamous “running of the bulls” festival. Where we are at is about five minutes away from being chased down these narrow alleyways by eight huge, angry bulls. And for once I am surprisingly calm. This has been the moment I had been dreading ever since we decided to come here but after confronting so many of my fears throughout the trip I find myself growing tougher. If I get gored a little, at least I’ll have a cool scar to show people. As long as I don’t die, it’s all good.
Two minutes have past. Three minutes and we do this.
All week I had been filming the daily bull runs, trying to work my way through the crowds to get closer to the action. Now I find myself with the best seat in the house. I notice that all the shop fronts along the street have been locked up with shutters. I guess the last thing any of the locals want is a rampaging bull running a muck in their stores. One small milk-bar chooses to cash in on this and remains open until the last minute. The newspaper stand out the front shows a photo of a bloody tourist being thrown around like a rag doll on the end of a black bulls horns.
Two minutes and counting.
The strange thing about all this is the absence of any specific rules. This is not a race. You start where you want and there is no finishing line. When the first firecracker goes off its time to start moving. The second bang indicates the release of the first lot of bulls. Third bang and even more bulls are released. And at the end of the track is the arena. If you get to the arena before the last bull you are allowed inside. Otherwise the doors are locked and the run is over for you. If you make it inside you must find your way through the bulls and runners to one of the outer walls and climb out to safety. This whole process only lasts a minute or two but it really will be one of the craziest few minutes of your life. We had heard stories of locals pushing you back into the track if you tried to climb over the barricades but it’s really hard to tell what is fact and what has been made up to scare prospective runners.
Times almost up. This is when the adrenalin takes over and you really feel alive. I am so restless that I find it virtually impossible to keep still. I have never been more ready for this. Bring it on baby. I am ready to take on the world.
The first bang sounds and we’re on.
TO BE CONTINUED…