Rules for Running with the Bulls

Running in the encierro is serious business.  Some safety issues are not actually matters of common sense.  For instance, new runners often plan to hang from the wooden barriers or escaping early by gently climbing between the railings before seeing bulls.  Police and other officials will vigorously push you back in the fray.  

Equally, the event commands respect, or at least some reverence.  This started way before us, and will continue long after we’re gone.  It’s not about you or me.     

To get a sense of the history, the city installed the iconic barriers in 1776, which first defined the modern running route, which was adjusted in 1856.  The Basque were running long before that year.  This is, and has been for awhile, an historical event.  So, safety aside, cobblestones in the morning with toro bravos is no place for drunks and louts and morons. 

Among other goals, it is our ambition to pass on to our fellow American travelers the regard (respect) for the encierro. 

NO CAMERAS.  Cameras and video equipment are not permitted in the running course.  Police will remove you from the course.  Seasoned runners may remove you from your camera.  Personally, in 2008, I knocked a paparazzi photog’s teeth out when he stopped in front of me while running to take a shot of himself – all the while, the FUENTE YMBRO breed was breathing down my neck.  And, I’m nice about the cameras compared to grizzled locals.   See the circled moron below right before I planted him.

Why all the fuss over cameras?  Amateur photographers are (largely) more concerned about their disposable Kodak than their own life, or more importantly, the lives of those around them.  They run backwards, they run slow, they fall, they hinder and they obstruct the run.  Camera work is “unsuitable for the smooth running of the encierro” according the city’s official rules on the running.  Holding a camera in the course is like yelling “Look at me!  I’m a danger to everyone around me!”  Good luck at the dentist.  

Jerk with Camera

I know – we all want to see ourselves running.  Get close to the bulls, and get your picture in the newspaper.  Get a girlfriend  and rent her a balcony spot.  Plenty of photo shops in town sell photographs of everyone running.  Bring collateral.

NO TOUCHING THE BULLS.  Don’t touch the bulls.  The goal of the morning run is to join the herd, and not to touch the bull.  You never know when touching a bull will cause it to lose interest in staying with its brothers.  Distracting the bull from the herd invariably results in injury to others, and possibly death.  The rolled up newspaper is to gauge distance, and in the hands of experienced runners, to help herd a lone bull (un suelto) toward the bull ring.  

The goal is not to provoke the bull or attract attention to yourself.  As discussed below, the runner should remain anonymous in the encierro (which means, “the folding”) . 

RUN ANONYMOUSLY.  The bulls are running together in the morning sun as brothers and a herd for the last time.  Every runner should be anonymous.  The traditional kit is:  white pants, white shirt (long sleeved), pañeulo, loose red sash, and the shoes called “espadrilles.”  There should be limited customization of the kit.  The running is not about calling attention to yourself.  If you run bravely and with honor and valor, you’ll get all the attention you need. 

Now,  the locals know how to tie the sash so that bull horns can pull it off like a knotted tie.  I can’t do that no matter how much instruction I receive.  I also wear a belt (a Navy Uniform white belt with silver buckle) under my sash, which is not advisable, because the horns can get tangled in the belt.  For me, my pants definitely would otherwise fall down.  A red scarf ain’t keeping my pants up.  

HINDERING DEFENSE.  Just like driving, run defensively, but not too defensively.  Stopping along the route during the run is immoral.  You should not lay hands on any other runner (unless they have a camera!).  More than once, someone has tried to drag me down.  Someone pushed Ari over in 2008 and he cracked a rib (allegedly). 

Climbing and remaining on the fence, barriers or doorways obstruct the run and may hinder the defense of the runners.  Think about your fellow man.  The run has to move forward. 

DO NOT GET UP.  Watch your head.  You are more likely to get knocked over and hit your head than be gored by a bull.  

If you fall, curl up into the fetal position until someone tells you all the bulls are past.  Having a bull step on you is better than goring you as you get up.  The instinct to stand is unbearable.  It is a death wish. 

On July 13, 1995, American Matthew Peter Tasio stood up after falling and was gored to death.  We remember Matthew Tasio every morning before running to convince our body to listen to these instructions.  The media account of Matthew Tasio’s death is chilling: 

“Matthew Tasio was among the scurrying runners in front of the bull.

The young man slipped to the ground and struggled to get up again. But no sooner did he get to his feet than he fell once more as other runners dashed past He began to lift himself once more to his feet when “Castellano” came charging up behind him and ripped into him with his terrible horns at full speed and with all the weight of its 575 kilograms. The goring was mortal from the first, the horns ripped into his stomach and cut through the aorta vein. The young man tried to crawl away to avoid the onrushing pack of bulls coming behind. He struggled as best he could towards the safety of the corral on the right, where a Red Cross unit was standing by. He was quickly rushed to hospital.

The goring had caused severe anemia and he lost 90% of his blood even before he reached the hospital. Eight minutes after the goring he was in the Hospital de Navarra – a remarkably fast time. But even so, he arrived unconscious and in a deplorable state. Despite the efforts made by the doctors to revive him, he passed away a few moments after his admission to the hospital.”

The bull tossed this young man 23 feet in the air.  It is the cardinal rule of the encierro:  if you go down, stay down.

Peter (June 2009)

4 Responses to Rules for Running with the Bulls

  1. Dylan says:

    Do you run every year?

  2. Dylan says:

    This year was my first year, and I stumbled upon this blog as I was reading up to try and prepare. Thanks for the information… it really helped and I had an absolute blast!

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