How to Run With the Bulls: Estafeta

Please note the nearest emergency exit

Jun 25, 2012
Outside Magazine
Police sweep Estafeta

A line of police on Estafeta push people up the street who wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona. Several thousand would-be runners are evicted from the course through the old city street due to overcrowding to make it safer for those thousands who do participate.    Photo: Jim Hollander

Pamplona police

Pamplona's police clear out potential runners on the streets too early. Each morning the police clear out at least 1,000 people who are not familiar with the run and try to start too far up the 900-meter course.

Flying shoe Pamplona

A running shoes flies through the air as a fighting bull from the ranch of Fuente Ymbro stampedes past in the final stretch of the bull running course. The shoe fell from a man who leaped onto a wooden barricade as the panic increased as the bulls ear the runners.

This is a long straightaway. James Michener said that if you’re in Paris and someone is trying to tell you how to run bulls in Pamplona, tell them you always run Estafeta and the conversation with end.

Beginners: There are four exits on Estafeta—at the two intersections. Use them if you need to, but note that you are probably safest on the street while running toward the arena. Start about halfway up Estafeta. Get an arm’s length away from the wall. It is vital that you wait until after the second rocket. It will take over a minute for the herd to reach you. A series of waves of panicked runners will flood past. Don’t run with them. Wait until the cameras on the balconies start to flash and pan with the herd. Then run.

Intermediates: The stones on Estafeta are very smooth and slippery. It’s like sprinting on a slip-and-slide. You can’t accelerate quickly or cut side to side. Start running early and fight for the center of the street. Do whatever you must to stay on your feet.

Experts: The legendary David Rodriguez dominates this section. He does it with iron will and courage. That said, even he still falls from time to time. Start running early and hold the center of the street. As the herd gets close to you, the crowd will thin. There is a bubble of space before the herd. Sprint full speed inside that small bubble. They’re fast here, so you better move quickly or they’ll use you for traction.

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