On the final day of this year's Fiesta de San Fermin, legendary American Joe Distler invited me to the runners' breakfast. Just before the meal began, 40-year bull-running veteran Julen Madina walked in. Madina had retired earlier in the year after his daughter was born. It was a hard decision to make, but after having seen it all—he witnessed three deaths, was gored in '96 and broke four ribs, was dragged roughly 150 feet by a bull’s horns in 1972—he decided to hang up his running shoes. While reflecting on his career he said the highs far outnumbered the lows, but there was one moment that stood out for its danger. He relives that moment from 2004, when a Jandilla bull gored him five times in the tunnel before running off into the stadium, in the following as told to (video below).
In 2004, I was running with the Jandillas like any other day. I was coming down on Telefonica and there were lots of people. The encierro was very dirty. People were falling over. They were crossing in front of me. I couldn’t see the bulls. I had a bull at my back very close. I was trying to stay under control. I had to keep looking down and measuring the space. I saw that by the left side of the tunnel a very great cork was forming. People were falling over and piling up. I decided to go towards the right side of the tunnel to avoid the problems. I entered on the right side with a bull very close to my back.
What I could not see was that behind that first pile there was a second pile. I fell over directly on top of that second pile. The bull [behind me] was very aggressive, so as soon as I fell it gored me. It lifted me from my belt and began to shake me vigorously. I tried to grab my belt buckle to loosen my belt but I could not, so the bull continued hauling me before he dropped me. I landed on top of a group of people and I lay very still, without moving because I knew that there where lot of people who were going to shout so the bull would raise its face and go away. Or, that is what I hoped. But the bull stayed with me and he kept on goring me. It lasted twenty-two seconds and nobody was able to take the bull away. Aside from the gorings, I remember hearing this noise, a zzzz zzzz, like stabbing sound.
The bull then took to me from my butt-cheek and lifted me and kept me on his horn. Then he dropped me, and I noticed a severe pain. The other thing that called my attention was the bellows of the bull, how it snorted, the energy with which it was attacking me. I could hear the noise that the hooves made in the ground, and the burned scent of the hooves scratching against the ground. I was laying face down and I stayed quiet, quiet, quiet. He gave me a terrible beating. I remained in the ground totally crushed and I remember that then I thought, I can see the street, so the pile is being broken. What the bull didn’t do now, the people will. There is an avalanche of people coming, and they are going to massacre me. They are going to crush me and step on me.
So, I dragged myself and I got underneath the wall [an opening low in the tunnel], hoping that the help would arrive soon. I remember that I was falling asleep because of all the blood loss. I was talking to myself a lot. I told myself to breathe slowly, breathe through the nose and your mouth, control the breathing, because I thought if I breathed slowly the blood would flow slowly. With an accelerated heart rate the blood circulates faster and you will bleed to death faster. I thought, If someday this had to happen, this is the best place, here in Pamplona. They have the best doctors and best resources. They’ll help you. Now wait and be calm. That is when I heard voices and I saw the Red Cross guys. They tore my clothes and made a tourniquet. One of them put his fist in my wound, in my left leg to stop the hemorrhage. They carried me to the horse’s patio, and they performed surgery at the nurse’s station right inside the arena.