The Running of the Bulls, Day 8

Our man on the ground has his best run of the year on the eighth and penultimate day of the 2012 San Fermin festival—before another runner stomps on his foot and sends him diving for cover in the nearby sand

Bill Hillmann

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

It wasn’t until the eighth and penultimate day, July 13th, but I finally broke through and had a long, clean run with the bulls of the Juan Pedro Domecq ranch. I held the center of the street early and waited. When the TV cameraman up the street panned with the lead animal, I took that as my queue to take off. The traffic on the street was light even though it was a weekend. I knifed through the few that stood around me and suddenly the street opened up halfway through the Telefonica.

Glancing back, I saw a black bull way out ahead of the pack. He was slowly gaining on me. A Spanish runner who wears a blue and white shirt sprinted beside me. I knew we would run its horns together and I began to focus on the crowded street ahead. The path was clear. When the bull swept up behind us, we each ran a horn and slowly descended into the Callejon.

An aggressive runner attempted to cut in on the Spaniard in blue beside me and caused him to teeter. The memory of Juan Pedro catching my arm when I slipped earlier in the week flashed in my mind. I reached out and tried to catch his arm to help him hold position. He regained his balance and we dashed another 30 yards, leading the bull into the tunnel.

At the tunnel the bull swung right and was directly behind me. My plan to run him straight across the ring and hand him off to the Dobledores was squashed when another runner stomped on my foot. As we came to the mouth of the tunnel I knew I was going down. I stepped on the sand and twisted to see the animal surging behind me. He strode steady and heavy. His jet black fur glistened in the light pouring into the arena. I dove with my last bit of traction and floated to the sand. I smashed hard on my stomach then face planted. The sand was soft and warm on my forehead as it burst off of me. The animal flowed over me without caushing any damage as I crawled away. Then a few runners came and pulled me out of the way of the herd that followed the lead.

This run was the perfect way to wrap up my fiesta this year. I’d fallen nearly every day after good runs. The legendary Mozo Julen Madina said: “I’m glad I’m not running anymore. It is so crowded it would be very difficult to run today.”

In my opinion there’s always hope at the center of the street, but I do agree with Madina: The crowds this year have been particularly difficult. The run ended in 2 minutes, 20 seconds. Nobody was gored, but five runners were taken to the hospital.

Filed to: