We are often asked whether we’ve suffered any close calls while running in San Fermín. Again, these runs are not to be taken lightly at any time, and you must always be prepared for the absolute worst. The goal of running with the bulls is to fold into and run with the herd – you join the herd – for at least a metaphysical moment. You get out in front and run as fast and far as you can, and then get out of the way. Even with a lot of experience, mistakes are made in the panic of the run.
The idea is to remain nameless and not to make a spectacle of yourself. This is not always possible. For example.
On July 11, 2005, Ari and I decided to run from about 3/4 down Estafada, with an intent to make a long run into the ring with the herd. It was a Sunday, so it was crowded. We stationed ourselves near Meson Pirineo near the side gates into Plaza Castillo. We figured that a large amount of the crowd would start near the beginning or near the end, and that as we folded into the herd, the crowd would thin for the turn into the bull rings.
The toro bravos were provided by the Jandilla bull-ranch, and it ended up as an excruciatingly long run (5:33).
Two (2) bulls charged past us as we started our run, and then there was a large gap with two (2) more bulls and a white speckled bull that flew past. With that, the crowd seemed to dissipate; and Ari and I lost counts of the bulls.
Suddenly, a black suelto appear, and a runner named Xabier stumbled and caught the bulls attention. He was repeatedly gored on the ground. The pastores began repeated whipping the bull with their willow sticks, but it had almost no effect. The bull turned and found me standing and staring. I leapt onto a fence, and the bull stood and watched me for what seemed over a minute. It was probably a micro-second. The bull started down the course, and I climbed down. I mistakenly got between a pastore and the bull, and was struck viciously with the willow stick, which left blood (not mine, the bulls) all over my white shirt.
With the skilful help of the minders with their capes, this loose bull was finally lead to the pens and all the runners could finally take a gasp of relief.
The next year, we returned to Pamplona and found that the entire episode was captured on a tourist magnet. I bought everyone I could find.