Running with the Bulls during the Festival de San Fermin was one of the scariest, yet exhilarating, adventures we have ever done.
Fear is a funny thing.
It has paralysed me when faced with heights. Kept me awake when I was younger and too afraid to sleep in the dark. And made me lash out when worried I might lose the ones I love.
I have even seen fear on friends and strangers faces when they have faced similar situations or confronted their own stresses. But never have I seen fear etched on to so many faces at the same exact moment.
Never have I stood looking in to those faces and known that my face shows the exact same feeling. A moment when the next 2 minutes could mean life or death.
Running with the Bulls
There is no escape from it as I am walled in by apartment blocks, shop front windows and 3 metre high wooden barriers packed with photographers along the entire length. At one end lies the relative safety of the bull ring pulsating with the cheers of the crowd who have partied all night. While at the other end a dozen wild bulls paw the stony ground looking for freedom.
Unfortunately I am standing in their path. This is where the fear comes from.
Adorned in white with a slash of vivid red at our throats and waists we stand jostling for space. Elbow to elbow with thousands of other thrill seekers, tourists and locals alike, I begin to wonder what the hell possessed me to go running with the bulls as I stand on this narrow 825m stretch of cobbled street at the crack of dawn.
Only my thoughts accompany me before being obliterated as the first firework is fired signalling the release of the bulls.
Silence descends for a split second before the crowd surges as if pushed by an invisible hand. Knowing I have a few seconds before the raging bulls reach me I stand my ground. Arms flail and the ground trembles beneath the thousands of feet pounding the uneven cobbled street as people begin to panic.
Abruptly a roar from the crowd is unleashed as the bulls sprint into sight. My fear evaporates and is replaced by pure adrenaline. Blood surges through my muscles and the world seems to slow around me.
Spinning on my heels caught in the rush of the crowd I am propelled forward away from the snorting beasts. Fear has gripped many and it’s now I realise that it was right to send Adela away from me as there is no chance I could help her if she ends up in danger.
It is every person for themselves when fear takes over.
Hands grapple and claw at one another as everyone fights for space away from the middle of the road. Wrenched off my feet I stumble but catch myself from falling beneath the unrelenting feet of runners.
All too suddenly the shoulder to shoulder crowd splits like Moses parting the Red Sea. It can only be the Bulls. I can hear their hooves on the cobbles before I can see them. The sound spurs the crowd on faster again.
Glancing to my left I spot them race past within spitting distance.
It’s not over and there isn’t a chance to stop as the crowd continues to run.
Sprinting madly after the bulls we run into a moment of darkness under the stadium entrance. Light suddenly bursts across my face as the crowd roars again and again as I join the celebrating masses in the middle of the bull ring. Blood pulses in my ears and my heart threatens to crash through my ribcage.
Clay and stones grind under my feet as I scan the crowd. It’s no longer fear that creases my face but elation, celebration and relief when I spot my brother, friends and thankfully Adela emerging from the crowd.
Check out our Running with the Bulls video!
Not all people agree that the San Fermin Festival should be allowed to go ahead largely due to animal cruelty. We wrote a post about the controversy surrounding Bullfighting in Spain and the Festival de San Fermin.
If you want to join the Festival de San Fermin next year or any other wild festivals in Europe then book with our partners Busabout.