I’ve been meaning to write this article for some time now. WordPress informs me that I actually started this draft back in February this year, so it’s definitely about time to finish it. Why today? I’m glad you asked. Today marks the 7 year anniversary. You see, on the 4th April 2010, I embarked on a journey to Arcos de la Frontera in Spain.
A weekend, not unlike so many at that time, plans with good friends, to go and spend the weekend somewhere different. We used to enjoy getting away from Gibraltar for the weekends and mini-adventures happened regularly. By then I think we had been for hikes, canyoning (not to be confused with canoeing as one member of the group did), festivals and even just simple, more traditional, nights out on the piss.
So what made this weekend different?
We were going to watch a Bull Run. I say WE were going to watch, there was one friend who had already decided he wanted to do it. So off we went, a few cars in convoy, to find our campsite in the heart of Andalucia.
After setting up tents and getting sorted, it was time to head in to town, for the main event. At this point, you need to know that 5 out of 6 in our group had NO intention whatsoever of doing anything other than watching this bull run from a safe distance.
When we arrived in town we were shocked, there were people everywhere! Thousands of them, all come out to either run or watch the main attraction for the day.
The side streets were sealed off by solid bars, with around 50 cm gaps between them. They looked solid enough, but the real cushion of safety was the sheer number of people. Trying to fight through the crowds, would still mean you were 5-8 people deep from the front view.
So we grabbed a drink, we chatted and mainly, if my memory serves me well, we mocked our one friend who really wanted to do this.
The next bit is a bit of a blur to me if I’m honest. I remember there being talk of him doing it, him not wanting to do it alone and then some other comments and discussion ensuing, back and forth. Before I knew it, I was taking off my jumper and had agreed that I wouldn’t leave him on his own.
We would do the bull run, together!
What the fuck!?!
So off we went. We left the rest of the group, safely with big metal bars separating them from the bulls. Looking back that probably is the best way to “experience” a bull run. Behind bars, or maybe on the first/second floor of a building, overlooking the excitement, but not close enough to it to get seriously hurt.
The crowds of people thinned out a bit, but no where near as much as a I thought they would. “Safety in numbers” came to mind, but I didn’t really believe it. All it really meant was there was more of us to get trampled by the bull.
So there I am, waiting around, nerves kicking in, stomach filled with butterflies and starting to wonder to myself; “what the hell am I doing here”?
We suddenly heard the bang that started everything.
The next 10 minutes (I don’t think it could have been more than that) turned in to a bit of a blur. We could see the bull leaving the main square at the top of the hill, and it was now time, as far as I was concerned, to get moving.
We started jogging down the hill, with still a good safe distance between us and the bull. By “safe” I mean long enough to feel like death was running slightly late, but would be here soon enough.
I looked to my friend, he’s much healthier than I am, fitter too, which means for him, a nice jog, or a good run isn’t too much of a problem. I’m on the heavier side, at the time I smoked a lot, I was starting to get worried.
He looked at me and simply tried to calm me down a little, by saying “It’s OK Chris, just keep jogging”.
I felt a little relieved, but I didn’t take any time to look behind me and see what kind of distance we had between us and the bull.
By this point, I’m starting to feel like we might make it. I kept repeating to myself, “we’re going to be ok”.
Suddenly, my friend looks at me and just shouts “RUN”!
At that point, sheer panic sets in. Wearing a pair of Caterpillar boots (not prepared for a run, remember I was never going to do this) I started pushing myself. It’s probably the fastest I’ve run, ever!
In my head I could picture a bull, riding a motorcycle, with a pitchfork pointing out forward, laughing and revving his engine as he started to pick up speed and knew he was going to catch me.
The panic, the burning sensation, all my muscles tensing up and pounding along that road as we ran for the next square.
As we made it to the square, my friend pulled me to one side, out of the way of the main road, towards the safety of the bars, where so many people were there watching, we actually had to push them back physically, to make sure we got inside the bars.
I remember a Spanish man giving me shit about the fact that I was blocking his view, and all I could keep thinking was,:
“Bollocks to your view mate, I just ran away from a bull”!
What seemed like seconds later, the bull made it to the square, looking for his next prey. I was panting, wheezing, desperately trying to catch my breath, whilst looking at this monster of an animal, feeling a little like I had just escaped the Minotaur.
As my body recovered, slowly, I started to realise what I had just done. Quite possibly the craziest thing I had ever done by that point in my life and, still to this day!
Our group reunited to get a drink and something to eat, and still buzzing with excitement combined with fear, we recounted our adventure and realised how happy we were. We had done it, without any grievous bodily harm.
By this point, we had experienced enough excitement for the weekend. The second bull run was about to take place and from the safety of behind the metal bars, and in fact behind the Bull’s transport cage, we watched the second run begin.
The loud bang, the door pulled open and a bull fighter, trying to coax the bull in the right direction was caught, head on by the bull, tossed in the air like a rag doll.
At that point, I was happy to have survived, but more importantly, happy that I had done it and would never need to do it EVER again!
Doing the Bull Run in Arcos de la Frontera, was the craziest thing I’ve ever done!
All Photos by the Legendary Dwayne Trinidad – Also the git that got me to agree to do the bull run in the first place.