Who wants to run with the bulls in Pamplona?

My family and I have spent summers in Spain for as long as I can remember.

As a young girl, I couldn’t wait for the last day of school so we could pack our bags and head for a country where the sun was always shining, and where everything halted at two in the afternoon.

Our time in Spain always coincided with the “Fiestas of San Fermin,” fiestas or festivities, celebrated in the town of Pamplona, where , for nine days, locals and tourists ran through the streets with the bulls.

Because we didn’t live anywhere near Pamplona, we had to settle for watching the event on tv.

I remember how we would set our alarm clock and promptly get up at eight; the time the run was aired.

I sat on the edge of my seat and bit my nails as I watched hundreds of men running in front of the bulls.

My mother, my sisters, and I made the sign of the cross before each event and sighed with relief when no one was hurt.

If someone was injured or trampled, we were overcome with sadness.

As a young girl, I thought the participants were extremely courageous.

Perceiving these men as brave is what prompted me to add “run with the bulls in Pamplona” to my bucket list at the tender age of ten.

At the time, I was quite impressionable and while I didn’t know what a bucket list was, I knew I had to participate in the event before I became old and arthritic.

There was something exhilarating and adventurous about outrunning beasts that were fast and lethal.

The event also had a surreal quality that left you with a God complex as you emerged triumphant; thus avoiding being sent packing to another life.

I imagined I would run faster than any participant; lead the group of runners to safety.

Me, a woman, would be the talk of the town.

My name and photo would appear in the newspapers and people would toast in my name.

That’s when I thought running with the bulls was a courageous act.

As I got older, my dreams of running with the bulls withered and died as I realized the participants were dumb asses; drunk tourists and foolhardy locals who were too stupid to weigh the consequences of their actions.

This was also the time when the animal activist in me kicked in.

I would preach for hours concerning the animal abuse present in blood thirsty activities such as this one.

Today was the last day of the “Fiestas de San Fermin.”

Just like in the past, I set my alarm clock, but instead, woke to my mom’s screams of “Hurry! They’re about to start!”

And once again, I sat on the edge of my seat and stared intently at the tv.

However, this time it was different.

I no longer thought the participants were brave or stupid.

Instead, I thought they were both.

Stupid, brave people running with the bulls.

And I was there with them; running as fast as my legs could carry me; my heart beating a mile a minute.

Who cares if I was sitting on the couch?

I had survived the experience, and that’s all that mattered.

I had run with the bulls and conquered.

At the end of the race, I happily turned off the tv; satisfied that I could finally cross this off my bucket list.

I felt damn victorious.

Has there ever been a time when you’ve wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona?

Here are some photos of the little “pueblito” where I’m staying. Enjoy!



50 thoughts on “Who wants to run with the bulls in Pamplona?

  1. Bella, no never. Yikes. I did want to be a jockey, though. I dreamed about winning the Kentucky Derby everyday. I remember telling my dad about my plans when I was 10. I was holding a screw driver for him while he stood on a ladder putting up our new basketball hoop. My 6 foot 4 inch tall father looked down at me and stated, “You’re going to get too tall, Heido.” First time in my young life that I was CRUSHED. First time in my young life that I realized just because you want something doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen. He was right too. But we got a lot of use out of that hoop. :)

    1. Heidi, isn’t it ironic that for somethings you’re screwed if you’re too short–like modeling haute couture and working as a flight attendant, and for others, being too tall is a problem–like dancing ballet professionally or being a jockey. Your anecdote make me smile–big time! I can see little Heidi, heart set on being a jockey. But hey, the hoop was an excellent consolation prize! :)

  2. I’m glad you survived the experience, even if it was from you couch. ;-) I’ve never understood why people participate in the running of the bulls. That activity has never appealed to me. I’m glad everyone is okay. Until next year…

    1. Paz, indeed, until next year! Thanks for the giggle with “I’m glad you survived the experience, even if it was from your couch.” hee hee! :)

  3. Yes, I remember wanted to run with the bulls when I was younger. Now I realize that I would have to be three sheets to the wind to get anywhere near a bull’s horns. I’m more intrigued by “La Tomatina”…the tomato-throwing festival. I guess I understand the draw, but it seems really weird that people pelt each other with tomatoes and call it a good time. Love your post, Bella. Always enjoy stopping by because I know it will be a good read!

    1. Annie, you’re making me blush! Thank you for your kind words! I too am fascinated by “La Tomatina!” I would love to pelt people with tomatoes! hee hee! :) Every year I Google images of the event and say, “Next year…” Someday I’m going to make it a reality!

  4. Bella, it’s like heaven there…
    –in the beginning, you had me all excited thinking about Hemmingway & those gorgeous men running with the Bulls…How dramatic & poetic!
    ….but then you wrote this: “I realized the participants were dumb asses; drunk tourists and foolhardy locals who were too stupid to weigh the consequences of their actions. ”
    –you honesty tickle me. :) xxx

  5. The photo of that giant poster is so BEAUTIFUL, Bella. You gotta blow that up and frame it when you get home. It kills me. But as for the actual running. Heck no. And any idiot who does deserves what they get. I feel nothing but pity for the bull. However, I’d be first in line for La Tomatina though. Seriously, when else can you get covered in ketchup and salsa and it’s super cool? What a blast that would be!

    1. Lori, that’s it. You, Annie and I have to go to La Tomatina! I think we would have ourselves a grand time! Can you imagine how much fun to pelt tomatoes at people! hee hee! I’m tickled pink you like the photo! I hadn’t thought of framing it, but you’ve given me a great idea! I think it would nice in our bedroom! Thanks for suggesting it! :)

  6. I think in another lifetime I wanted to be a go-go girl. Who wants to see a size 22 go-go girl in boots that won’t zip up????? Oh well, I am so over that one, the writing thing, no.

  7. Bella, I would love to run with the bulls as well and when I was in college in the 80’s (in Puert Rico) my friends and I came up with the idea to dress as Salvador Dali and run with the bulls as well as to get arrested for being women (we were told that is was against the law for women to run). However common sense and fear of a Dominican Mama took over me and we never went thru with it!

    1. Ofelia, don’t you hate how the system has a way of making us cave? By the way, I was in Puerto Rico in the 80’s! Did you study at the UPR? It sounds like just the place that would inspire students to dress like Salvador Dali! How I would have loved doing something like that! Totalment descabellado! Me encanta! :)

    2. Bella, yes I graduated from The University of Puerto Rico, the main campus in Rio Piedras with a Marketing and Business Administration major and a minor in art.
      What a small world!

  8. I know it’s an honored tradition in Spain. And that’s great and all. But I could never run with a bull. I’m just too damn scared. And hot. And lazy. I won’t even run with my dogs. Poor dogs!

    1. Leah, I’m giggling here! I understand. Don’t think for one moment I don’t. There are days I can barely muster energy to drag Roxy to the few patches of grass there are here. I think it’s the heat. It’s killing me. And making me sluggish. :)

  9. No bull-running for me, because the alternative challenge to that would have to involve…eating their you-know-what. I am serious! For some (wild, he-man, hunting mountain men I suppose) eating bull grilled bull nuts is a treat. One of my Hawaii inlaws swore by their juicy flavor, but the MotH himself says that they are very tasty. Of course you must already know that italians do not waste any part of the cow, bull, chicken, pig or horse!!

    1. Yes woman, no part is wasted indeed! How very frugal of the Italians, eh? I have a cousin who agrees with the MotH and says they are a delicacy! I think that’s one delicacy I’ll pass on! :)

  10. Bella, I love this post. Made me smile widely. Brava! You vicariously ran with those bulls, had a thrill, and didn’t have to sweat a drop. What an adorable little town you’re in! Love that lime-green wall.

    1. Jann, I love how your great comments always make me feel! Grazie! I love this little town. I’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember and it never gets old. I’m tickled pink you liked the post! :)

  11. Bells, Gracias a Dios that the only running with the bulls you do from the convenience of your couch. I would be forever fearful of taking that plunge or of you taking it. I’d want a major head start–of at least a mile. Then, maybe. Maybe if I stood in another town, and started running at precisely the same time as the fools in Pamplona. On the plus, I just love the name, Pamplona, and how the sounds on the tongue. Que nombre mas perfecto!

    1. Que nombre rico, eh Monica? Me encanta! And absolutely, gracias a Dios que el correr era, bueno, desde el sofa! hee hee! You had me laughing out loud with the mile head start! OMG, I think I’ll join you, but make mine a two mile head start. The Spanish bread has made me mushy and robbed me of any muscle tone. Grief. :)

    1. OMG, Shary, your comment made me burst out laughing! Suddenly I could see you running with chickens and I couldn’t contain myself! :)

  12. Hey Bella
    great post! i looooooved the pics of the old pueblito.
    it seems familiar to me…

    Did you take a photography courses? You must really have a nice camera to take such beautiful pictures! The angle, composition, colors, everything!
    I think it’s a sad and silly thing to run in front of bulls.
    I would or NOT do it or I WANT TO BE SURE i can outrun everybody AND THE BULLS before i would even think about it! haha
    Perhaps next year. haha

    Keep up the good work!
    Enjoy your holidays!

    1. Pete, thanks for your kind comment. I’m flattered you like my humble attempt at photography! :) I think a year of training should prepare you to run with the bulls next year. Perhaps then you’ll change your mind? hee hee!

  13. I so relate to this, Bella. For years I had the opportunity to ride attitudinal horses that didn’t want to be ridden. Bareback, too. My fantasy was always to ride a bucking bronco. These days I’m hesitant, though. I’ve finally realized that I’m not indestructible. Also, if I got hurt, my mother would kill me. Thanks for a great post!!

    1. June, you feisty, brave woman, you! Wow! I am impressed! I smell a blog post featuring this kick ass ability of yours! What say you? :)

  14. I’m another one who is too chicken to even think of running with the bulls! But like you I also have too much concern for the animals and wouldn’t participate even if I had the guts!

    I enjoy reading posts about your Spanish heritage (the photos too!)

    1. Joy, hello and welcome! I agree with you wholeheartedly–concern for the animals’ welfare is important. After all, they’re made to participate, unlike those running with them! I’m so glad you like the post and photos! :)

  15. I never wanted to run with the bulls; since they’re animals and it’s humans who make stupid and far too often cruel decisions, I always cared more whether the bulls got hurt than if humans got trampled. Does that make me weird?

    Anyway, I did want to be a jockey (I love horses) until I realized the horses were often mistreated, and I’d love to jump with a parachute, ride a motorcycle, do extreme climbing, or fly with a kite. Unfortunately, with my reflexes and laziness and the lack of a proper constitution, none of it would be a wise thing to do.

    Not that anyone does one of those because it’s wise. :D

    1. Ivana, you’re right–people who crave adrenaline-filled activities rarely do it cause it’s wise! :) I too wold love to jump with a parachute. I imagine myself floating through the clouds. How cool is that? :)

  16. I studied abroad in Spain when I was just a college girl and I was appalled that anyone would want to run with the bulls! A few of my classmates did it and said it was strangely terrifying and amazing at the same time… I am not the type :)

    Love the pix of your pueblito! They bring me back to the summer I spent in Spain :)

    1. Erin, hello and welcome! I can understand why your classmates would find the experience of running with the bulls amazing and terrifying. Most of the people I’ve spoken to whom have actually done it, say the same thing. I’m happy you like the photos! I love it when I see pictures and they regress me back in time! :)

  17. Cool! now I know someone who has run with the bulls and survived to tell the tale – you are so brave, sitting on that couch and not being injured!! heh heh – loved this post!

  18. You are my Shero, ever and always Mistress Bella. There are many crazy things I have done in my life, too many to count and none to publish because it would confirm my zany-crazy side, but running down the street with animal steamrollers chasing my very Latin arse is something I would never do. If you haven’t already, capture that rush you felt while running, bottle it in your mind. The next time you are staring down something requiring moxie dab that feeling behind your ears. You ROCK! (I suspect you are a little zany-crazy, too.)

    1. Brenda, I think by now you know I’m much zany-crazy! This is why I believe we could be good friends! :) And I’m sure with a little nudging on my part, I might be able to talk you into running with the bulls! hee hee! Hey, we wouldn’t want to deprive the hunky Spaniards of our big arses running down the streets of Pamplona! :)

  19. You with Pamplona and me wanting to go to the Tomatina….I remember when Aunt S would make us watch the running of the bulls and then brew a “tila” tea when she developed tachycardia because of the anxiety….hahahahahahaha

    1. bwhahaha! OMG, the “tila!” I remember that! Uncle V would shush us and tell us to pay attention because this was a once a year event! Silly rabbits! We can still do the Tomatina! Name the year! :)

  20. When my mother was a little girl, she and my Grandmother traveled around Europe, following the lead of my late Grampy. He was an English professor/novelist and took up residence in new cities as they offered him jobs, and the family would pack up and move almost every semester [clearly, my mother had the best childhood ever in that respect].

    While in Spain at the age of about 7, my Grampy got wildly drunk and decided to run with the bulls – a skinny, 6’5″ Maine native with all the athleticism of a newborn moose.

    To hear her tell it, my Grandmother got wildly drunk in turn, as they waited days for his return. When he finally did – unscathed, hungover and unimpressed – the only thing this great man of words would say about the event was that “There were always doorways and alleys. I spent more time in those.”

    To get all philosophical on you, I think that’s a pretty apt/sad life metaphor right there – when the bulls get too close, maybe you should find a doorway and stop running.

    1. Jayca, you are a gifted and talented story teller! I love, love this story! And I love the metaphor even more, if that’s possible! Your blog is enchanting but methinks you should incorporate some of these beautful stories in it! How spectacular! Muchas gracias for sharing! Oh, and your gramps was a wise man. It would have been lovely to meet him! :)

  21. Oh Bella , would you believe it if I tell you just last week I saw this Hindi movie titled ‘ ZIndagi na Milegi Dobara ‘ meaning you wont have a second chance at life thats been exclusively shot in Spain and also featured the Tomatina festival and the Fiesta of San Fermin ..
    Having said that however I must tell you that the bull running , as crazy as it is , is shown in a completely different spirit ..
    but seriously I fell in love with Spain and I cant wait to visit someday ..

    1. Priya, I’m sure your adventurous spirit would be right at home in Spain! I truly hope you can inded come and see the Tomatina and the festivities in Pamplona! And you can blog about it! :)

  22. My Spanish teacher made me fall in love – okay, I’m the hopeless romantic type, and Spaniards are, to me, hopelessly romantic beings — with bullfighting when he introduced us to Lorca’s poem. Me, an 11 or 12 y-o girl in rural Jamaica (Caribbean, not Queens!)
    A las cinco de la tarde.
    Eran las cinco en punto de la tarde.
    Un niño trajo la blanca sábana
    a las cinco de la tarde.
    Una espuerta de cal ya prevenida
    a las cinco de la tarde.
    Lo demás era muerte y sólo muerte
    a las cinco de la tarde.

    Then I saw photos of the running of the bulls and thought, these people are nuts! But now that I’m older and have gotten over most of my fears, I think it’d be pretty cool to try (along with skydiving and bungee jumping).
    And in Jamaica, we make a soup with the testicles. It used to be that women weren’t supposed to drink it, but these days, we get to do (almost) everything the men do. Hallelujah!
    I need a year in Spain.

    1. Marcia, you do need a year in Spain! Think of the fun you’ll have! Running with the bulls is only the beginning! We’re lining up quite a crew for the Tomatina! Join us! hee hee! :) And by the way, who doesn’t love Lorca? His poetry makes me swoon!

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