Before the race
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
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
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 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
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:
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:
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.
Todd O'Neill (your editor)