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How to Run Very Quickly Away From Bulls in Pamplona

Panicking is an art.

Well, I ran with the bulls of Pamplona for the second morning now.

Technically I didn’t run with them as I got into the arena before the bulls did. The experience I had years ago was more than enough for me.

I didn’t jump over the railing like I did in the past. I ran around with a rolled-up newspaper chasing and being chased by bulls. I fell twice and skinned my elbow but this wasn’t from bulls, this was from people who don’t know how to panic properly.

Instead of darting quickly away with a few epithets on their lips, some act like a cartoon character from Scooby Doo with their legs and arms flailing in every direction while they run into everybody.

I’ve got my panicking down to an art — I duck, I weave, I evade and if necessary I push others into the path of oncoming danger. They let out six bulls with banded horns for the arena runners to play with.

A lot of people got tossed and hit but they were surprising not hurt terribly much. These bulls were smaller steers than the fighting bulls. A few times they let out another steer typically larger but not as fierce or fast to calm down the steer. However these calming steers often ended up chasing and throwing runners as well, so there were times we had to keep our eyes out for two bulls running loose.

The crowd oohed and awed the antics of bull runners as some smacked the bull with paper or with their hands.

A real crowd-pleaser was grabbing the bull by the tail and holding on as long as they could. For a split second I was tempted to win anonymous fame by doing this stunt. For a split second. Then I remembered: 1) I’m allergic to pain — particularly my own; 2) I don’t have any insurance; and 3) I’m a gutless coward.

Some runners really got the bulls ticked off and found themselves being trampled into the ground with horns digging at them with a vengeance. Even banded h! orns could hurt when brought down on someone with force. I understand that on the first day of the run, one of these bulls jumped the railing and ran around the inner ring chasing the cowards onto the safety of the arena floor.

Today I ran into the ring even sooner to set up for a photo for when the bulls came charging in. A few spectators booed me along with another guy with a video camera and one with a whistle flipped me the bird. I guess they don’t like photographers. Or was it gutless cowards? I wasn’t sure but I was offended by the latter until I remembered: I am a gutless coward.

When the running bulls came in, most were herded quickly into the corrals except for one of the fighting bulls. He decided he didn’t want to go in so there was a few tense moments for the herders.

Armed with long sticks, the bull guards swung them more at the crowds than the bull to keep idiots from trying to play with a fighting bull without banded horns. A few times he made! a few quick strides around the arena sending riders cascading over the railing. There were some smart enough to know this bull was more dangerous inside the ring than running outside with so many targets to choose from.

One of the other fighting bulls turned around at the corral door and butted horns with his wayward companion and kept him from entering the corral. The crowd went wild as the two fought. When the wayward bull broke off the fight he charged in my general direction.

Nobody wanted to grab this guy’s tail. Instead we high-tailed it to the railing. Eventually the bull guards were able to get both of the bulls in.

Then we got down to business: bull business.

Once again bulls were let out of the corral and the runners facing smaller bulls with banded horns did what they do best —annoy the hell out of them.

I actually smacked the rear of one with my rolled-up newspaper as he stood looking for someone to chase. I felt guilty about it ! though. After all, what did the bull ever do to me? I felt like apologizing but he was a little busy to respond to my apologies.

I had a fewer closer calls today than yesterday but I was less frightened. When one was facing me not more than a few meters off, instead of running and thus inviting him to follow, I stood still knowing some fool would divert his attention and sure enough they did.

I realized by watching the bull guards and the matadors in the bull fight yesterday that panicky-running is worse for you — except during the actual running when the bulls are mainly just booking it to the ring.

I came into the ring a coward but when I left I had a few runners congratulate me on my hit. Unfortunately it was on the other side of the ring from where I was booed so at least half the arena still thought me a gutless coward.

David Weber

David Weber is a historian who lives in Japan.