How to survive Running with the Bulls
I know what you might be thinking: why the hell would anyone want to be chased by six 1000-pound animals down slippery, narrow, cobblestoned alleyways? I had been living in Pamplona for five years and never even dreamed about joining the encierro, leaving that to the ten thousand lunatics who flocked to this small Northern Spanish city every year hoping for close encounters with the horned kind. But one fateful summer, the stars and sangria aligned to bring me to Stoke Travel running of the bulls camp, and I found myself among the crowds dressed in red and white, ready to run for my life. Now, I’m not saying everyone should be running with the bulls. It is very dangerous. But I will say that it was the best, stupidest, most spontaneous decision of my life, and if a 5-foot tall Asian girl can do it, then anyone can, if they follow a few key survival tips:
- Choose a good battle song. The morning I piled onto the bus, I had no intention of running with the bulls. But with every person that asked, “Are you running with the bulls today?”, my FOMO worsened and my heart rate picked up. I started thinking, Could I really run? A sense of camaraderie grew among everyone on the bus, we were like soldiers riding into battle together. As we pulled into Pamplona, our dreadlocked Stoke guide stood up, and made a speech about grabbing life by the horns. Just as he finished, thrusting a fist in the air, Enter Sandman blasted through the speakers and I knew that was IT, the sign I needed, the universe was telling me to grab life by the bulls.
- Commit to the run. When I finally decided to face the bulls, I knew I had to high-tail it to the Town Hall and take my position at the start of the run. It’s best to get there at least 40 minutes before the run starts since security kick people out when it gets too packed. This also gives you plenty of time to agonise over all life decisions and ask yourself, what the hell am I doing? Is this really happening? Is there beer in heaven?
- Don’t be an idiot. If you decide to take part in Running of the Bulls, do it right. Wear the red and white costume, respect the locals, and remember that selfie sticks will not only make you look like a total tool but are also absolutely useless when trying to defend yourself from against a bull.
- Listen for the cannons. The first one means you can take your place in the run. The second one means the bulls have been released. Happy hunger games!
- Avoid Dead Man’s Corner. The infamous Curva de la Estafeta is the narrowest and most dangerous part of the run and has been the sight of many encierro accidents over the years. The Bulls often slip on wet cobblestone and crash into people, who fly over the side of the fence to get out of their way. To avoid getting gored in the neck, I ran straight past La Curva after I heard the first cannon and stopped further up Estafeta with the bullring in sight.
- There’s strength in numbers. If you’re going to defy death at Running of the Bulls, you might as well pick a good crowd to go out with. That way someone will know to look for you.
- Stay with Stoke during Running of the Bulls. Nowhere else will you find the best humans to experience this totally rad bull run with.
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