Just back from the crazy festival of San Fermin, better known as The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, Jonathan Reynolds talks with MaptheGap.co.uk about what the experience of running in the festival is actually like.
What did you expect it was going to be like, before you actually arrived?
I expected it to be…carnage. Bodies everywhere, insane crowds, complete and utter chaos. I knew a fair bit about it, but it wasn’t until I got there that I realised just how dangerous and full-on the run was going to be.
Were you considering pulling out?
Yes. Up until five minutes before the running I was looking for an exit, and then I turned around and saw a 70-year-old lady in a bright yellow vest eagerly anticipating the canon. At that point my ego got in the way and I knew I had to run.
What were your first impressions of the festival?
I wasn’t expecting that sheer amount of people to descend on Pamplona for it. The festival is based in the old quarter, so this small medieval town with its tiny alleyways was packed with heaps of people. The Spanish know how to throw one hell of a party though.
What made you decide to want to run with the bulls?
A lot of my friends had already done it from home (Australia) and I heard it was a test of your manhood. I couldn’t come all of this way without doing it and face my friends who had already done it. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
What was the first thing that went through your head when you saw the bulls running up behind you through the streets?
You hear them (the bulls) before you see them and that is the scariest thing about it. You don’t want to look back while you are running because you are only going to fall over the person in front of you.
Describe what the run itself felt like?
I started in front of the town hall. About five minutes before the first rocket went off the crowd surged because every one wanted to get past Dead Man’s Corner (a right angle in the track, which the bulls can’t get through at high speeds, so end up flying out to the outside of the track - there is nowhere to escape). Around the corner I was happy because I was through the most dangerous part. Next is an open stretch for 400 metres, and from there you stay out of the way, unless you’re brave enough touch one of the bulls. They move at such a high speed for a 500 kilogram animal. They are deceptively fast along the cobble stones. Once the bulls pass you it is a race to get to the arena in time before they close it off. You have to let them pass you because otherwise you would be running actually with them.
Were there any scary moments when you thought you would get gored?
Well I got stuck in the middle of the street after Dead Man’s Corner as the crowd parted to let the bulls through- after being told to stick to the wall and not the middle of the street- but I finally managed to reach the wall. I heard them before I saw them. The locals on the balcony were yelling ‘torro torro’ and pointing at the bulls. I could hear the screams of the runners behind me.
How did you feel when it was all over?
I was terrified still, but it was also a massive sense of relief. I was proud of the fact that I followed through with it. This was followed by disbelief that I actually did it. It was short-lived though, as then the young bulls get released one by one to wreak havoc amongst those now in the arena.
Would you ever do it again?
What was your overall impression of this crazy Spanish festival?
It was an unbelievable experience. The Spanish were up until 7am each morning partying in the streets. They took partying to another level. Nothing in Australia or England could compare to that.
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