The Running of the Bulls
Some of us run fast to impress friends, some of us run fast to score the best time. Some of us just run fast because there is a bull with big horns right about to jab us in the back. Read about the ultimate incentive to better your speed. It is a tecnique for the few brave, determined (and crazy) runners. This Run The Planet webpage highlights the running with the bulls race in Pamplona. Get enticed to run yourself or get thrill vicariously by reading about those who participate in this unusual running event.
Origins of the San Fermin Fiesta
The current San Fermines can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Three different events converged at approximately the same time to form the present day fiesta: the San Fermin religious celebrations honoring San Fermin (patron saint of bakers, wine merchants and wine-skin makers) were held on October 10th; the trade fairs, the Feria del Toro, and bullfights which took place in July since the 14th century; and the Fiesta of San Juan on June 24th which lasted twenty days. These events led the Town Hall to ask the bishop to change the date of the San Fermin celebration to July 7th. This was done in the year 1590. The Fiesta begins on July 6th and runs through July 14th. White and red are the official colors of the fiesta.
The running route
The "Running of the Bulls", or "Encierro" as it is known in Spain, was born out of a necessity to transfer the bulls from outside the town to the bullring. Before the bullring was built, the Plaza del Castillo was used for the bullfights. Although the "encierro" has changed over the centuries, the spirit remains the same. At 7:55 am, the runners approximately seventy meters beyond the bulls corrals, sing to a statue of San Fermin in a niche, asking him to protect them. The "Running of the Bulls" begins when the San Saturnino church clock strikes 8:00 am. Then two rockets are shot off announcing the exit of the bulls from their corrals. The first rocket announces that the gate to the corral is opened. The second rocket announces that the bulls preceded by eight oxen are now in the streets running towards the runners. The "encierro" usually lasts about two minutes. The entire route of the bullrun is about 790 meters long.
- Santo Domingo street - It is 300 yards long. Between the corrals and the Plaza Consistorial. Steep uphill slope. The bulls tend to cluster. It's one of the most dangerous stretches, especially the last few meters by the square. The best runs can be seen here.
- Plaza del Ayuntamiento - Mercaderes - It is 120 yards. One of the least dangerous stretches. Although the two turns here make it more complicated, the runners are relieved to find themselves in a wide area to run. There are many points of refuge here.
- Calle Estafeta - The turn into Estafeta street is a 90 degree turn to the right. The bulls slip and bump into the left hand wall of the street. Runners are advised to take the right turn on the right side of the street to avoid being pinned between the bulls and the fence or the wall.
- Estafeta - Baja de Javier - A slight 2% slope. The street is long and narrow. It is one of the most crowded stretches. Runners can only escape into the doorways of the buildings.
- Bajada de Javier - Telefonica building - The herd tends to slow down here. The group of bulls may split up, and some bulls may fall behind. This makes the stretch very dangerous.
- Telefonica buiding - Less than 110 yards ending in a funnelshape, surrounded by a double wooden fence. The animals are now tired and run at a slower pace. The bulls tend to break up. An extremely dangerous place both expert runners and unskilled runners.
- Callejon (blind alley) - Funnelshaped downhill slope leading to the bullring. Many runners falling here have made human heaps, with fatal consequences.
- Plaza de Toros - The bulls run into the center of the ring. Here the bulls are led to the corrals.
Tips for running
- Access - If you want to participate in the running, you should enter the track before 7:30 am through the gates in the Plaza Consistorial and stay there until the municipal barriers in the stretch between the Square and the Old Military hospital. After 7:30 the accesses are closed and you are not allowed to leave the track.
- Most dangerous stretches - Callejon-Plaza de Toros (eight deaths) and the end of the Cuesta de Santo Domingo (three deaths).
- Garments - Use comfortable clothes and sneakers or sport shoes. Do not carry any other items (backpacks, cameras, etc.) with you.
- Ask experts runners for advice - The running is neither a joke nor an opportunity for media coverage. The risks are enormous, and the mass attendance of runners makes it even more dangerous. It takes many years of practice to become a good runner.
- Getting in and out of the flow - Getting into the flow of runners is as important as getting out of the way. Get in gradually, as the other runners get out. Or get straight in, from a standing start.
- Beware of falling - Bulls are not the only danger. Mainly, it's the number of runners. The chances of stumbling and falling are very high. In fact, most of the people who are injured during the run have fallen and been trampled over by other runners. You have to look in front of you, behind you and on the ground. Once you are in the herd, it's safest to remain close to the bulls because there will be no runners in front of you. If you fall, just curl up and do not move until someone taps you on the shoulder. If you're near a bull and you fall, do not try to get up. If you curl up in a ball, the bull will evade you and continue running. Getting up will cause the bull to attack you. This is the most common mistake made by runners.
The Running Rules
An edict issued by the mayors office details the following rules concerning the running of the bulls:
- Those who are less than 18 years old are forbidden to run.
- Crowding the fence is not allowed.
- All doors along the runway must be closed.
- No one can remain in the runway who is drunk or drugged or who in any other way represents a danger to the rest.
- One cannot carry things into the runway.
- Runners must be dressed correctly.
- It is forbidden to call to the bulls or in any way attract their attention either in the runway or in the ring.
- Taking photos from inside the runway or from the fences during the "encierro" is not allowed without permission from the authorities.
Run The Planet thanks theRunningoftheBulls.net for the permission to reprint the article "The Fiesta of San Fermin" by Jacqui. Text and photo copyright © 2001 theRunningoftheBulls.net Inc. All rights reserved. The logo of this webpage has been realized by Run The Planet using an image from the poster "Encierro" by Pablo Errea Rodríguez, first classified in the 2001 San Fermin Poster International Competition.
The information contained in this webpage is intended to provide news on the "Running of the bulls" as an unusual running event. Please know that in no way does Run The Planet endorse bullfighting. In this regard, while offering running-related information about the Pamplona event, Run The Planet is supporting and promoting the alternative "Running of the nudes" offered by the international organization "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" (PETA) as an animal-friendly touristic event.