How to Run With the Bulls: Santo Domingo

Run like you've never run before

Jun 25, 2012
Outside Magazine
Santo Domingo

The encierro begins at Santo Domingo.    Photo: Jim Hollander

Santo Domingo

Runners lead the bulls on Santo Domingo in 2000.

San Fermin statue

Bull runners on Santo Domingo, the beginning and fastest section on the 900-meter bull running course in Pamplona, Spain, touch the statue of San Fermin.

At the beginning of the course the terrain is a fairly steep, which can be dangerous. You probably run slower when moving uphill, but the bulls run faster. Plus, they’re fresh.

Beginners: Position yourself an arm’s length away from either wall. After the second stick-rocket explodes run like you’ve never run before. The herd will likely be tight and out in the center of the street. Stay to the side but keep your head on a swivel. In 1971 a bull scraping the wall here nearly disemboweled Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Michener. Sometimes bulls just decide to break from the herd. If that happens, hit the deck.

Intermediates: The most popular chunk in this section is the Suicide Run. Get a front row position on the police line. Then, as the bulls approach, start pushing (really, how often can you get away with pushing a cop?). As the herd gallops forward at speeds approaching 35 mph, run directly at it (it’s a sick game of Chicken that you will lose). At the last second, dive off to one of the sides as the herd barrels on.

Experts: In the old days the Butcher’s Guild would gather here in their white cloaks. Like our suicidal intermediates, run downhill at the herd. Yet at the last possible moment, stop, turn around and sprint up the street just before the tips of the lead bull’s horns. Legend has it the Butcher’s did this to ferret out the most aggressive animals to make their job of selecting which bulls they’d cut that evening a little easier.

Filed To: Adventure, Events, Culture, Spain