Be at the Bullring

San Fermín Day 2

Start time: 5 a.m

hours of sleep: 2-3 hours

At 5 a.m I unzipped my tent to see an ecstatic and nerve-wracked campsite. I could feel the electricity and excitement of the people who were planning on running with the bulls. The party kicks off on Saturday, but the first run isn't until Sunday. The bus that left at 6 a.m sharp but at five many people were already awake. Practically everyone was planning on running at the campsite.

They watched, read, and exchanged tips for how to run without getting injured. One of the most crucial, if you fall or trip, do not get up and cover your head. Once it is safe, someone will pull you up from the ground. If you get up on your own, there is a chance there might be a bull right behind you, and that's how you get gored. If one of the animals is approaching, it will most likely jump over you. Other people paced around until it was time to get on the bus.

The director of PP Travel had a lot to say about Running with the Bulls. He explained the full history of the run, how it has changed, and even his experience as a runner. The citizens of Pamplona have been doing the bull for a few centuries before Hemmingway popularized it.

The gates and fencing you see didn't always be there. Historically, people would line up on the cross-streets leading the bulls to the ring, holding the iconic red sheets. As you might have guessed, many people were killed doing this. Then they introduced the oxen to lead the bulls as well as six steers, three in the middle and three at the end to heard the stragglers. They still had people dying on the cross streets. At some point in this history, they realized the animals would continue to chase people, in the case that they stop running. It wasn't until the 1900s that they introduced the 3,000 piece fence along the 875-meter route. They then created slots to roll into if you fall entering the bullring, another dangerous place to be. Who knows, maybe the next improvement to the run will be canceling the bullfight. You can read my full opinion on this subject here.

outside the ring, day 2.jpg

At the end of his speech about the history of the run, he told us, "If you go to the hospital, don't worry the food isn't half bad." He was speaking from personal experience. In '95 he was gored. The bus made a light-hearted laugh and then went silent.

When we arrived, the two groups separated. Those who were running and the five or six including me not running. If you don't buy your ticket for the incierro-official name for getting the bulls from the pen to bullring, don't worry. You can get one from a scalper for only 10 euros, only a 3 euro difference from online prices. We all then sat and waited to watch the run. It was pretty fun. They play music; people are dancing in their seats, and we did a couple rounds of the wave. It was like the beginning of a baseball game. Except for waiting for the first pitch, it was to watch a couple of thousand idiots run with bulls. (Yes, I was one of these crazy idiots on day 3).

Peter in ring.jpg

Then we heard the rocket. We all went from taking selfies to staring in awe at the screen. It was fascinating watching the run from inside the bullring. They are able to screen the madness from a live camera on a cable along the route. In real-time, we were able to see hoards of people run with the bulls on screens. Once the rocket went off it, a few people came into the ring. Everyone starts booing. These people were the ones who didn't actually run. They were the people who started at the end. But then the runners rushed into the arena. The first group of bulls were seconds behind. We quickly notice someone is already in a stretcher. I am almost positive this was the selfie-taking lawyer from San Francisco.

I thought it was over once the bulls made it in their pen, but noticed no one leaving. Then they released the first steer with capped horns, to prevent significant injuries. They release the steers individually to heard each bull into separate pens. The brave will rush to where the steer will be released and make dogpile. As if the run wasn't enough for them, they now wanted to have a steer jump over them. If you decide to do this, keep your head down. Later back at the camp, one described it and said he felt the sand whip across his back.

As you can see, the following was pretty entertaining. So many idiots tried picking fights with the baby bull, and they all lost. Sometimes resulting in the capped horn going up their but. It served them right. One person even jumped over the bull, this might of been (football player). Others were tossed entirely and flipped by the steer. Another rule is to respect the animals at all time. Those who try touching the steer or bull during this time are smacked in the hand by the shepherds. Also, this is not a rodeo. I mentioned this in my post about my experience running, but in case you haven't read it, do not try grabbing the horns or riding the steer inside the ring. Not only is it not allowed, but you will also most likely be beaten up by the local Mesos. The cops will not care or prevent the punches.

After the included breakfast and chatting about this mornings run, I threw on the swimsuit and headed to the pool. It was very relaxing and if you wanted you could skip the craziness of the city and just party at the campsite. Drinks were cheap, and there was always someone to talk to or something to do. I was also pounding water. It was in the 90s (f) or 30s (c), plus 50-80%humidy and I was planning on going out all night. Funny enough, more people go to the hospital during San Fermín for alcohol-related reasons than the bull run. So make sure to drink water every other drink. I'm not joking about this. It's a marathon, not a sprint, drink up.

It was a long solo night. I needed a break from all the Americans, so I hit the city by myself. It was my thought that I could take the bus dropping off people for the run in the morning. At 6:30 a.m, I found out this was not the case, so I decided my best option was to take a small nap in the bus station. Using my reusable cup as a pillow, I found an empty bench and past out.

Be curious. Be courageous. Be chivalrous.