Running With the Bulls: July 10, 2014

Nervous bodies corralled together as the run is about to begin.
Nervous bodies corralled together as the run is about to begin.

The first two rockets go off and I start jogging down the 800 meter track knowing that six 1,100 pound, abusively trained killing machines are headed my way fast. Despite this fact, I still feel somewhat detached from the truth of the matter. Suddenly the pace increases, shouts ring out, spectators cheer. As hoofs clatter on wet cobblestone the scene becomes frantic. It is in this moment that pure survival instinct takes over: my vision narrows and sharpens, adrenaline gushes, and my body just seems to act without input. I hurdle and dodge fallen runners, take an elbow to the chin, and prepare for the sharp stab of a horn in my back that seems inescapable, almost invited to end the suspense.

Spot me directly at the corner of the grey wall. I had no idea the bulls where so close!
Spot me directly at the corner of the grey wall. I had no idea the bulls were so close!

I’m at la Curva de la Muerte (The Turn of Death) as the bulls pass, the exact spot I wanted to avoid. The corner is too tight for full speed bulls to make and they slam into the outside wall. I take the corner as tight as possible and glance to my left, witnessing the only visual memory I have of the run, a pile of people in the worst possible spot getting trampled by tons of angry beef. Seconds go by and the bulls have sped past and despite not knowing if there are more behind me I know the worst is over. Realizing now what the Bull Run is all about I am teeming with euphoria knowing I’ve just gotten away with the most ludicrous thing I will ever do in my life.

Our pre-run selfie. What are we doing?!
Our pre-run selfie. What are we doing?!

As climbers we take risks daily, we take them for reasons important to us and we manage the risks by using our skills, techniques, and equipment to keep us as safe as possible. Good reason and management make the risks acceptable. While writing this I am tempted to come up with poetic, carpe diem-esque reasons for my participation in the run but the truth is that I did it for no reason at all. Just to do it. Not exactly the best justification for putting life and limb on the line. Unlike my rationale, my risk management did exist: I wanted to be nowhere near la Curva de la Muerte when the bulls came passed. A good intention with shit execution.  With no reason, no management, and high risk it would be near impossible to do anything more senseless.

I hoot, holler, and hop my way down the rest of the track and into the arena finding my friends equally un-gored and exhilarated. The stadium is at max capacity, with hundreds of people in the arena with me as phase two begins. A young bull is brought into the arena for runners to prove their bravery; feeling like I’ve just escaped death I want no part in it. Others, either stupider than me or for better reason, incite the bull and are met with horns or narrow escape. Progressively more aggressive bulls are brought in as I leave the arena to enjoy safety and come down from the high that lasts hours.

It’s equally hard for me to say that I would or wouldn’t do it again. Although next time it would be for a reason:  the inexplicable sensation of every bodily function working 100% towards survival.

As I walk past the start of the course on my way out of town I’m still on edge. A rocket goes off and a wave of children comes crashing towards me. Rational thought is put on hold; my body lunges out of the way. A child stumbles and cries out in fear as a plastic bull-barrow veers past him. I know how he feels, my heart resumes pounding…

 


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