Woo-hoo, that’s a big fat checkmark on the todo list!
Today was AWESOME. It started out a little rough, I left the hotel around 5:45am. My intent was to grab a taxi to make sure I went to the right spot for the start. But despite seeing a half dozen or so, I couldn’t hail one. I’m guessing they are only allowed to stop in certain spots, or they were all their way to pre-arranged pickups. So the only real alternative was to walk to the downtown. It is only about a 30 minute walk, so I thought I would be ok. But I didn’t bring my map, so there was a lot of mis-direction, wrong turns, walking around in circles, etc.
After some much needed directions from a fireman (gracias!), I arrived at the “mayor’s house” about 5 minutes before they closed off the street! I have to admit, the scariest part of the morning was thinking that I wasn’t going to make it.
Anyway, a mosh pit has nothing on this crowd. Everyone was pushing and shoving, the police were grabbing people out of the crowd that were either drunk, or didn’t have appropriate shoes (there were 2 girls pulled out right beside me that were in flip-flops).
About 10 minutes before 8am, they clear a 4 foot strip of the street with police so the Mayor can walk the course. As he was approaching, I pulled out my camera to film it (which is strictly forbidden 🙁 ) and one of the policemen grabbed me and pulled me out of the street, telling me I couldn’t run (second scariest moment of the day). I explained to him that I wouldn’t film anymore, and actually left my camera on the sidewalk (it was only a $100 flip camera, not worth missing the running for). After many “por favor’s”, he took my camera and let me back into the street! Dodged bullet number 2.
While standing in the crown, I met Paul from Dallas, TX. He has a company that organizes running races (they had one in columbus on memorial day weekend) – his website is theoriginalmudrun.com . He gave me a bunch of advice, and we both had the same plan: to head out past dead man’s corner for the start.
At 5 minutes before 8, the police form lines on either side of the square in front of the mayor’s house, and clear out anyone outside of the square. I was definitely in! At that point, we were able to start moving around and I headed down to “dead man’s corner”, as I originally planned. Just as I got there, the first rocket went off, meaning the bulls had been released. This meant I had about 60 seconds to get where I wanted to be.
The second rocket goes off when the last bull has left the pen, and this happened about 30 seconds after the first. This is a good sign, meaning that the bulls are all together in a tight group. The most dangerous situation is when they get separated. When they are together, their natural herd mentality is to stay together and run.
I made it to my starting point, and then it was just a matter of waiting. You can’t really see anything because of the crowd. But you can DEFINITELY hear the bulls coming. Their hooves on the cobblestone are like thunder! My heart started beating fast (wish I would have worn my heart rate monitor). The road is all cobblestone, and it is either wet or sticky. They clean it every morning just before the run, and many places are VERY slick.
I didn’t want to be too early, but I definitely wanted to make it into the arena at the end. As soon as I saw the first bull’s head, I ran like hell… a flat out sprint as fast as the crowd would allow. There were people falling in front of me, people hitting my feet from behind. I managed to stay on my feet and ran alongside the first group of bulls for about 20 meters, then somehow joined back up with Paul. We both had the same goal, to make it to the arena, so we hauled ass up the hill, around the corner, and down through the chute.
Entering the arena was AMAZING. I felt like a rock star, the whole crowd was screaming and yelling. About 20 seconds after we got in, the last bull entered the arena, they closed the gate, and the third rocket went off.
Once you are in the arena, you are stuck there for 30 minutes. There’s no way out. They put all of the running bulls into their pens for the evening’s bull fights. Then they release 6 smaller bulls (hard to judge the size, maybe 400-500 pounds), one at a time, and they chase around all of the runners (there are probably about 100-200 of us who made it into the arena). The have some sort of “ball” on the end of their horns, so it’s a bit less dangerous. But they are definitely pissed off and go after anyone in their way.
A lot of people try to touch them, grab their tails, etc. which receive loud whistles from the crowd (the equivalent of booing). It is considered very disrespectful to the bull to touch them.
Each bull is in the arena for about 5-10 minutes, then they bring out a HUGE steer to guide them back in. The steers aren’t nearly as aggressive, but they are massive.
The crowd is very skittish. As soon as a bull turned to face them, many people started running with a look of fear on their faces. Paul and I were much less excited (probably because were a bit more…. mature (and sober) … than the average person in the arena. Most of them were in their 20’s and still hungover or drunk from the night before.
I knew the bulls responded to motion, so I was a lot less skittish than many of the crowd. There were several times I was about 8-10 feet from the bull, face-to-face. I just stood still to see which way it was going to turn, and went the other way.
As the next bull comes out, about 10-12 people squat/lay down in front of the chute, and the bull jumps over them. On the 5th bull, Paul and I were able to make to the chute. As so0n as the steer and the previous bull went in, they closed the gate and we dove for a good spot on the ground. I was right in the middle, and there were about 3 people on top of me. As they opened the gate, I saw the bull tearing into the arena, and held my hand out to try to touch it. It stepped right on top of me (actually on the people on top of me), and found an initial target, a guy in his 20’s just to my left. It stood on top of us for about 3-4 seconds while it tried to gore its target, and my hand was right on it’s back leg. The guy who was the target took a horn (with the safety tip) right to the crotch. It ripped his jeans clear through, then picked him up by his belt and lifted him until the belt broke. It was so amazing to be so close.
At about 8:45, the last bull was escorted away by the steer, and they let us out of the arena. I went back to the mayor’s house, found the policia officia who escorted me out with my camera, and he returned my camera to me! How cool is that! I think he was happy to deal with someone who wasn’t drunk or belligerent.
Cannot WAIT until tomorrow morning! The plan is to start a little closer to dead man’s corner and run just about 50 meters further than today.
Some video before the run (about 7:45), before they took my camera: