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Tips on Running with the Bulls at the San Fermin Bull Run in Pamplona

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Pamplona Bull Run

Running with the bulls can be very dangerous

Image: Damian Corrigan

Running with the bulls is dangerous and is not recommended. Each year dozens of people require medical attention after running with the bulls. It is important to get tips on running with the bulls from people who have run before.

Read more on the Pamplona Bull Run

The biggest problem is that people run with very little knowledge of what to expect. The other major reason why there are so many injuries is that people often run whilst incredibly drunk. Imagine a mountain climber or base jumper drinking before doing their own dangerous activities!

Here are the tips I have picked up from people who have run and survived. If you have more tips to add to this page, email me and I will add them (click on my name at the top of the page to send me an email).

How to Get the Most Out of Running with the Bulls in Pamplona

This first piece of advice is not about safety but about getting out of the event what you came for - running with the bulls.
  • Two firecrackers go off. The first is to alert you that the bulls have been released from the pen. The second is to say that they have started running towards the runners. Unless you are at the start of the run, neither of these firecrackers is a signal for you to run. If you do, you'll never see the bulls. Instead, follow those behind you. When they start to run, it's time for you to run too.

Unfortunately, waiting for the bulls to approach makes the whole thing more dangerous (not waiting means you can't really say you've run with the bulls. So, to stay safe, follow the following advice.

How to Stay Safe Running with the Bulls in Pamplona

 

  • Don't run on your first day there - watch the first time, to get an idea of what to expect. If at all possible, walk the course with someone who has run before.

     

  • Not only should you avoid running on the first day for the reasons mentioned above - it is also possible that you won't even be allowed to run. Each year, more and more people come to Pamplona to run with the bulls and the first day is the most popular. As a result, the police are getting stricter on who they allow to run - an inexperienced looking foreigner is more likely to pulled from the crowd on the first day than on any other day.

     

  • Your biggest fear should be not of the bulls but of other people around you falling on top of you or tripping in front of you. With the vast numbers of people, running this happens a lot. Even if you think you can outrun a bull, take into account that when five people fall in front of you, it is going to be difficult to take evasive action. See my Pamplona Bull Run Pictures to see an example of this happening.

     

  • If you go down, stay down. Cover your face and just lie there. You might get a few bruises but it is safer than trying to get up. Onlookers will tap you on the shoulder with a rolled-up newspaper when it is safe to move.

     

  • Take the corners tight, as the bulls are going to go wide.

     

  • Start after what is known as 'dead man's corner'. It is 300 meters from the end and is marked as such. Swallow your pride, starting at the beginning will result in injuries. It is also unlikely that you will be able to start at the beginning anyway, as the police try to pick out the tourists and take them to a safer starting point.

     

  • Don't drink. If that is impossible, don't drink too much.

     

  • Get some sleep. There is a park nearby where a lot of people sleep. Just make sure you don't have anything valuable on you.

     

  • If you want to get into the arena, don't fall too far behind the bulls, as they will close the gates shortly after the bulls have entered. You don't need to actually participate in the arena action: once in the ring you are free to climb the wall and watch from the safety of the spectator areas. However, don't run too close behind the bull, you don't want to risk it turning around and causing more trouble!

In no way does this advice constitute safe passage through the Pamplona Running of the Bulls. Hundreds of hyperactive people running from six angry bulls is unpredictable - this advice is simply intended to assist you. If you insist on running - good luck!

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