How to Run With the Bulls: La Curva

The run takes a turn for the worse

Jun 25, 2012
Outside Magazine
Pamplona bull run

A fighting bull from the Jandilla ranch slips as the herd turns into a sharp corner in the old city of Pamplona.    Photo: Jim Hollander

Joe Distler

Joe Distler screams in jest at runners on Calle Estafeta with "Hairy Larry," Tom Turley and Jose Antonio.

Running of the Bulls

A fighting bull tramples two runners at the sharp curve in Pamplona's old city streets. Thousands of people cram balconies on the entire running course to watch the spectacle each morning as six fighting bulls are let loose to stampede through Pamplona during the week-long fiesta.

The Curve, Hamburger Wall, Dead Man’s Corner—it has a lot of nicknames because, after so many years of accidents and mishaps, danger is almost guaranteed on this section of the course. The herd flies into this hard-banking turn at full go. They crash and fall and chaos ensues.

Beginners: Don’t even think about it. If you are a beginner and you run La Curva most veterans would say that you deserve whatever horrific wound the bulls give you. Beware, you may attempt to run Town Hall, but if you leave that section early guess where you’ll end up? Pancaked under a half-dozen fallen bulls.

Intermediates: There is an old technique popularized by American Joe Distler that the Spanish have been using for an eternity. Stand in a doorway on the left side entering The Curve. After the herd hits the wall, break into a sprint. Catch up with the pack as they rise to their hooves. Run them up the street as far as you can. But beware; there may be a straggler or two.

Experts: Scotsman Brucie Sinclair created a modified version of Distler’s run. He started halfway up Mercederes in a doorway on the left. After the herd passes, sprint right up to their backs. When the bulls hit the wall, swing out around them and onto the horns. Take them up the street. Another Scott, Angus Ritchie, had a hell of a Fiesta last year doing just about the same.

Note: Deaf and mute Spaniard Jose Antonio has spent decades at The Curve doing the impossible. He stands nearly in the center of the curve. As the herd passes, he picks up any straggler bulls, quiets them and leads them up Estafeta. But you probably don’t want to try this: Jose’s super-human sensory-perception and insane courage are the only things that keep him alive year after year.

Filed To: Adventure, Events, Culture, Spain