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> Running with the bulls: here's a few tips which might come in useful

Hmmm... Bulls are unpredictable and running along side them is foolish, very dangerous and damn good fun!

Bulls are funny creatures, one second they are running along side you all nice and fine then the next second they have switched into goring mode and all they want to do is to kill you. Funny that...

Tips which could help you survive the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona

Before the race

Research: Before you set out do as much research as you can. The best website we could find is www.sanfermin.com and it has just about all the information you would require and it even has photos of the course, it is superb.

Fitness: Although the course is only about half a mile long you should practice your running so that you are able to run DAMN QUICKLY if need be (remember bulls run faster than humans). If a bull is after you, you may be forced to exit the course - ensure you are fit and agile enough to dive through the openings in the wooden slatted barriers, and you'll need to be able to climb as well.

Make a Will: Its a good idea to make / update your Will before you set off. See our donation section.

Equipment: Ensure you have a good pair of running shoes which will provide good traction on cobbled surfaces (in both wet and dry conditions). Red bandanas and sashes can be purchased in Pamplona (as can white shirts and trousers - respect tradition). Don't carry anything either.

Rest the night before: The Festival is manic and goes all night and its difficult (if not impossible) to sleep but try to get a good night sleep before your run in the morning. You will need to be sharp for the run.

Don't Drink: Don't drink alcohol the night before your run. If you are hungover you are toast. You will need to be sharp for the run because things happen really really quickly! There is plenty of time to drink after the run and a tried and tested strategy is 'one day on followed by one day off' - i.e. so the first day you run then drink like a mad man, then the next day don't run but sober up for the run on the following morning.

Watch first: before you attempt to run it is a good idea to be a spectator. You may pick up on some running tactics or identify some danger points, or after you see how fast the bulls run you might decide this whole running thing is not for you (it happens, so just chill and enjoy the Festival).

Know the course: Walk the course a few times the day before you run it. Ask passers-by that look like runners (you are always surrounded by a high percentage of them) if they know of any dangerous points on that section. Runners really look out for each other and you may find someone who will walk the course with you and give you advice. If there is a corner remember that bulls often run wide on the exits so don't get squashed between a bull and something solid. It is very important to identify the exit points available (there are very few). Look for small doorways where you could seek refuge but bear in mind these will likely be crammed with bodies the moment you need them.


On race day:

Arrive early: The race starts at 8:00 a.m. so aim to be on your chosen starting point by 7:30 (the Main Square by the town hall is a good place to start). Enter by one of the main entrances (don't climb over the barriers) and talk to the other runners and get some last minute advice.

First rocket: The blast from the first rocket indicates the first bull is on the course, and the second rocket indicates all the bulls have left the pen and are on the course. The crowd will start to move slowly so just go with the flow.

Alert: Be on the look out for bulls coming from behind. When they are approaching you'll hear the spectators on the balconies cheer and when you hear pounding hooves things start to get damn serious. You should be running at this point or taking cover at the sidlines. Be very alter to what is going on all around you.

Do not fall: when things can get a bit manic and its easy to get tripped up. If you do fall, curl into the foetal position (protect your head with your arms) and stay there until the coast is clear - one of the other runner will tell you when to get up so do so quickly and get running. Bulls will usually jump over top of a fallen runner (er like horses do) which is nice. In addition to the approaching bulls you'll need to be on the look out of fallen runners beneath your feet.

Don't hang about: some people stand around on the sidelines and prefer to watch when they should be running. These guys are often to belame for human pileups (referred to as montones) and thats when runners get injured.

Taking cover: if a bull is too close for comfort and you decide to bail-out, you may find that a load of other runners have already have taken cover and many of those little shop fronts are now crammed with guys crapping themselves and the wooden barriers are covered with a sea of bodies climbing like mad (not good). This happend to me a few times and had to wait my turn while I watched the climbing frenzy (seconds seem like hours) and other times there was no exit or hiding places so I just ran as fast as I could along side the bull and bailed out when I had a chance.

Getting close to the bull: it is dangerous but fun. Run at a medium sort of speed, as the bull approaches from behind increase your speed so that the bull will pass you on the right or left side. Briefly run along side and as the bull starts to pull away (you can't run as fast as a bull) pull to the slide and gradually slow down and try not to trip any other runners in the process.

No touchie: if you are close to a bull don't touch him or try to grab his attention. It will just makes him mad and he might take his frusterations out on you or one of your fellow runners.

Beware the rogue bull (or suelto): Bulls prefer to run as a pack and when one gets separated it gets damn angry will begin to charge at moving objects (i.e. runners). A suelto can circle (perhaps run in the opposite direction) and can trap runners against the wall. I met one guy who was pinned against a wall, he completely froze (good idea) however the guy beside him decided to dive under a wooden barrier and the bull immediately charged him. Luckily the guy made it just in time but the bull still used his horns and thrased the hell out of the barrier in an effort to get him. Serious stuff.

Redirecting the bull: it is possible to redirect the bull by waving a rolled up newspaper to attract its attention. This is useful if a bull is approaching directly behind you - if so use the rolled up paper and direct the bull to overtake on the side - it really does work. Traditionally runners use the morning newspaper but I use a copy of MCN (MotorCycle News). Experienced runners put their lives at risk as they attract the bulls attention to free an injured runner or to direct the suelto in the correct direction - don't try this unless you are experienced because its very very dangerous.

Don't run behind the bull: if a bull has just overtaken you, don't try and run behind him. This could attract his attention on to you (not good) and you could increase the chances of creating a suelto situation putting your fellow runners at risk.

Entering the bullring: the run ends at the bull ring but be warned - the entrance to the ring is narrow and often the cause for human pileups (montones). Advanced level runners often prefer to run through this section along side a bull for max street cred - yikes - that's serious! This entrance way is so dangerous that they put a TV camera in it to not miss out on any carnage. Once you have successfully entered the bullring don't hang around the entrance way blocking the other runners from entering. Just hop over the wall into the seating area, watch the action and empty your trousers.


After the run:

Enjoy! The run will finish at about 8:05 a.m. and Pamplona will be a rocking! All the bars are open, the bands are playing on the streets, discos are going full tilt and the party continues until about 4:00 a.m (yes really!). Just a word of warning: life seems different after completing a run, you'll be amazed you are still alive and you'll want to celebrate. You may find drink goes down a treat and its easy to get dangerously drunk (hmmm... I've been there) so if you can, try to pace yourself and enjoy the Festival and comradery with your fellow runners. The people you'll meet in Pamplona are increadibly friendly.

Good luck

Todd O'Neill (your editor)