Bucket List Or Nah? This Traveler Dishes On Running With The Bulls In Spain
By DeAnna Taylor
Each year hundreds of locals and tourists flock to Pamplona, Spain for the San Fermin Festival. While it is an actual week-long festival, most people know this annual occurrence for its main event, the running of the bulls.
We’ve seen the photos and videos of participants running in narrow alleyways, in a state of chaos, as raging bulls chase them through the streets. But have you ever talked to someone who has actually been in the middle of the action?
We spoke with traveler ‘Quiet Ray‘ who experienced this year’s run with 7 of his closest friends. He told us what it was really like and whether he would actually participant again in the future.
Ray and his friends ventured to Spain for a bachelor party celebration. While running with the bulls wasn’t in the initial plans, after some persuasion from folks in the group, they decided to see what it was really like.
“We saw it on T.V. and thought it was crazy,” Ray told Travel Noire. “When a friend mentioned it, it kind of caught on in the group as an idea to do during our trip. At first, only 3 were on board then eventually 8 of us agreed to do it.”
There are 6 days worth of runs. The group participated after watching it for a few days as spectators first.
The event starts early in the morning. If you plan to run, you have to be inside of the gated area by 7 am or you won’t get in. Security is said to be pretty tight and they make sure that you’re not intoxicated and that you don’t have any loose items out before you can enter. Once you’re in the gate and they close it, there’s no going back. At 7:45 the official race starts.
“It was really intimidating because you have a mix of experts and people who have never done it before, so it causes a lot of chaos. You have people panicking and then you have people ready to try to take on the bull and entice him.”
At the sound of the first horn, six bulls are released into the alley. Most people try to stand off to the side to let them run past, including Ray. They then take off behind those bulls in hopes of snagging some footage of everything. But, there’s a second horn soon after.
At that point, another set of bulls are released so you have to make sure you are still running and actually keeping up to not get trampled.
Everyone is running toward the stadium where the second part of the event happens.
“Once we were in the stadium they lure the bulls into their own gates. There are now hundreds of people standing in the ring in the stadium. It’s like controlled chaos,” Ray explained.
From there, the trainers release the bulls one-by-one into the crowd. It’s every man for himself as people try to get to safety or out of the ring. This goes on for about 15-20 minutes. The trainers then round up all of the bulls to get them back into their cages and it’s over.
Later that evening, the entire town dresses up in traditional costumes and head into the streets for a festival. As Ray describes it, “It’s like Coachella on steroids.”
“It’s definitely a one-time thing for me. The moment I was done, I was like ‘yeah, that was crazy!’ It’s definitely some real-life bucket list stuff, and you have to be committed once you do it. But, it was dope to be able to experience that with some of my closest friends and now we all have this story to tell.”
To see more of Ray’s experience you can find him on IG: @quietray.
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.