The Running of the Bulls, Day 3

A collection of sights and quick observations from our man on the ground at the 2012 San Fermin festival, including a conversation with the medics that rescued him from a charging steer

Bill Hillmann

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I walk out today ready and committed to hold the center of the street. I wait it out more than usual, only starting to move as the sweep approaches. Then Juan Pedro is behind me. We dash onto the horns. I stumble and Juan hooks my elbow to preserve my balance, and together we run the horns for a distance. Then I peel off to run the later set.

They come along the right barricades, a steer and a bull side-by-side, slightly ahead of the others. Cutting through the crowd, I position myself to run the bull. As I cut in front of the steer, I know I’ll run the horns. Then a hard push into my upper back. I lean into it and brace. A searing bellow erupts behind me. The push extends as the steer’s forehead bursts upward and through me. I accelerate and fly into the air, slam into the cobblestones, and land perfectly flat. My face, knees, and elbows all hit in a simultaneous instant. A millisecond later my testicles smack the stones. I’ve never felt pain like that. The steer and bull sweep over me as I crawl to the barricades, moaning. A Red Cross medic grabs my arms and pulls me the rest of the way under. He helps me to my feet and asks if I’m okay and where I am from. I moan and nearly weep, clutching my stomach. The medic is worried I have a brain trauma when I finally tell him “Estados Unidos, Chicago.” As the medics treat the various bloody gashes that cover my body, I begin to lighten up and think, Hey, I wanted to interview one of these guys anyway.

I start to tell the medica in my broken Spanish that I am a journalist and want to speak with them about the festival. They look at me, now sure I have a brain trama, and continue to ask me things like, Where are you from, and What day is it, and Where are you now? I give up and walk to Txcoco. I make fun of myself and everyone laughs. Later, at a runner’s breakfast, the Basque and Spanish runners chide me. They ask if I saw the steer: “You know steer’s are very large, no?” Then they wanted to examine my exotic kicks.

An Outside article inspired me to try Vibram Five Fingers. I slowly transitioned from regular shoes to the barefoot running shoe. I have flat feet and the Vibram shoes instantly helped the condition. My calves have always been bulky and unformed. The Vibrams instantly gave shape to my calves and things only got better from there. This year at fiesta I planned to wear both regular shoes and the Vibrams in order to compare and contrast them here. A few weeks out, I decided that the Vibrams were so far superior to regular running kicks that I didn’t bring any tennis shoes. So far they’ve held up beautifully.

There had been a lot of commotion surrounding the Miura ranch leading into their appearance at fiesta. One bull killed its brother in the holding pens at the edge of town a few days before. Two others were also deemed unable to run due to the fighting. They were replaced by another three from the Miura ranch, their younger brothers.

Later in the day I watched the TV footage of the run. It was wild. A bull got way out in front of the pack. The animal nearly gored American Dennis Clancey who deftly dodged him at the last possible moment on Mercaderes. The lead bull smashed into the curve and scraped the busy wall, knocking several runners over. Miraculously the bull’s horns didn’t penetrate anyone. The run lasted 2 minutes and 27 seconds. There were no gorings, but paramedics took one runner to the hospital.

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