Before I know it, the run is over and I’m still alive. The bulls are all in the arena and the spectators have all started climbing over the barricades and into the street where I’m still standing breathless in awe of what I’ve just done. I’ve just taken on eight bulls and I feel like a god. It’s such an indescribable feeling to survive something as intimidating as the bull run. It really does make you stronger. You can’t help but think… “Now that I’ve done this, I can do anything.”
Lee had been running beside me filming my run with a miniature hidden camera. He pats me on the back in congratulations. He doesn’t need to say a word. Everyone who runs knows what all the other runners have just been through. It’s like a cult. As you walk around you nod at these complete strangers wearing the exact same outfit as you and that one simple nod of understanding says a thousand words. Chef Robin was also running beside us. Chef has been an absolute bull-dodging machine. He had taken a holiday from our former job at Orocco Pier in Scotland to join us in Pamplona and he decided to go hard by not only doing the bull run once but by also running again with all three of us on separate occasions. I look up and see Mick precariously poised in a tall tree taking footage of me. There are so many people desperate for a good vantage point of the run that its impossible to get a good shot unless you climb up something dangerous or mount a hidden camera on yourself.
Two minutes ago I was still yet to be enlightened by the whole experience. When the first firecracker went off, it all started to get pretty crazy. Everyone keeps their composure for now and they all shuffle in unison. The buildings lining the street are all about six stories high and their exteriors are covered in stereotypical Spanish looking balconies full of spectators and news crews. On the other side of the large wooden barricades are an ocean of even more spectators and swarms of medics carrying plastic stretchers and neck braces. It feels like the entire crowd is there just for you.
Everyone is still joking and laughing and denying. Then the second firecracker goes off. The bulls are now released but everyone knows that they still have a good thirty seconds or so before they reach us. The shuffle turns into a jog and most people are still calm and jovial. Every now and then, someone will freak out and sprint past at top speed but most reserve their energy. If you don’t look where you are going you will run into one of the many people waiting for the bulls to get dangerously close before they start running. They stand backwards, jumping up and down to get a better view like meerkats looking out for danger. The worst part of the whole run is the fact that the bulls, even though they are absolutely huge, are still shorter in height to your average person so the only way of telling when the bulls are getting close is by jumping or by reading the reactions from the people around you. When the bulls are close and everyone is uncontrollably screaming and running for their lives then turning around and bouncing is not really an option anymore. Everyone has the same idea about reading everyone else’s reactions and before you know it mass hysteria settles in. Everyone thinks there is a bull directly behind them and everyone thinks they are going to have to one day explain to their kids why daddy always walks with a limp. My tactic up until now had been to run against the wall as far away from the center of the street as possible but now on one side I have a wall of people shrieking like they’ve just been shot and a stone veneer shop front on the other. And directly behind I’m pretty damn sure I have a bull on my arse. I have nowhere to go so I just keep running and tensing myself for the impact. The screaming seems like it could not get any louder but it still intensifies. I run faster. There is a flash of brown hair to my left and I see two runners get bowled over. I stop and look back at them and see another bull bound over both of them with one stride of its giant legs. It is the ten or so seconds of insanity when the bulls are upon you that I will always remember.
Before I know it, the run is over and I’m still alive. The bulls are all in the arena and Lee, Robin and I are helping Mick climb out of a tree. The adrenalin courses through my veins. I feel motivated. I feel inspired. I feel like the world is mine for the taking.
Now that I’ve done this, I can do anything.