First, be sure to read about Day 1 of the San Fermín Festival and the sangria-soaked Opening Ceremony leading up to the Running of the Bulls!
The Running of the Bulls, or Encierro, takes place on the morning of the second day of the San Fermín festival. After a long and eventful first day commencing the festival, including the opening ceremonies, the Running of the Bulls comes in a flash.
Many people party through the previous night and come for the run still stained in the sangria celebration from the San Fermín opening ceremonies. The streets are cleaned as best as possible while thousands of people begin to fill the streets and balconies along the route of the run.
I got an early start at 6:30 am on the morning of July 7th to get to our balcony on Estafeta Street (the longest stretch along the route of the run). Three of my guy friends were going to be running but I decided against it. Traditionally, women do not run the race. For my own safety, and out of respect for the culture, I decided that a bird’s eye view would be more than satisfactory.
The anticipation leading to the race at 8 am was incredible. I was so nervous! I only had stories that I had heard to fuel my expectations and, quite literally, anything could happen. Nobody has died in many years but the possibility of injury is highly likely. People fall, get pushed and can be gored by the bulls. I couldn’t even imagine what the runners were feeling as they stood down below waiting for the sound of the firecracker.
The sound of a shot rang through the air and we watched from the balconies waiting for the massive animals to come charging around the corner. Thousands of people began to run and soon I noticed the beginning of a group literally running for their lives. The bulls were just beyond them.
A group of 6 bulls came charging around the corner surrounded by people either avoiding the bulls or attempting to run alongside them close enough to touch their horns.
My stomach was in knots as the wave of red, white and bull sped through the street below.
It was over in seconds as the crowd continued on towards the final destination, the Plaza de Toros. After the bulls passed, we turned to the television for news to see if anything was reported. Luckily, everything went smoothly and there were no tragedies. The festival would continue for 8 days including 7 more Running of the Bulls, 7 more fireworks shows and countless other celebrations.
The whole event seems surreal in hindsight but I’m so glad I went. I got the opportunity to be a part of a cultural experience that has been passed on for hundreds of years. While the chaos of the small streets filled with thousands of (mostly drunk) people can be overwhelming, I only stayed for the first two days. I got a taste for the San Fermín Festival and was able to leave without feeling like it was too much of a good thing.
¡Viva San Fermín! ¡Gora San Fermín!
Other blogger’s experiences of the Running of the Bulls:
Planet D: A Quick Run with the Bulls
Girl’s Running with Bulls: Running Tips for Beginners at San Fermín
Go, See, Write: Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain