If you thought you could just rock up and start running with the bulls, then some things might surprise you.
Consider the proper preparations beforehand so that you know the route, safety measures and how to position yourself to keep out of harm’s way.
The week-long spectacle comes with inherent danger and risk, so keep reading this guide so you’ll know how to run with the bulls in Pamplona.
📓 Experience and Preparation
If you have decided to run with the bulls in Pamplona, you are not alone in this thrilling adventure that attracts participants of different ages and genders.
Although it’s common to see mostly men in their 20s to 40s running, there’s a strict age limit of 18, and women are also welcome to join. It’s important, however, to consider our own capabilities and fitness levels before embarking on this risky endeavour.
Common sense will always prevail! That said, during the event, avoid running while intoxicated, posing for selfies, and wearing items that might get caught on a bull’s horn. Additionally, running with experienced friends who can share their knowledge and expertise on minimising risks is a good idea.
Selecting the proper clothing and footwear is key to having a positive running experience. Opt for comfortable, lightweight running shoes with good traction to avoid slipping on the cobbled streets.
It’s also common to wear white clothing with a red bandana or sash, symbolising the event’s traditional dress code.
Physical Fitness and Training
Keeping in good physical shape is essential when participating in the running of the bulls. You should attempt some level of cardio exertion to boost your baseline endurance in the months leading up to your trip.
Local Guides and Tours
If you want to maximise the experience, consider hiring a local guide or joining a group tour. They offer insider knowledge of the event’s rich history, running strategies, and tips for safe participation.
Moreover, they provide a sense of camaraderie among fellow adventure-seekers, making the entire experience more memorable and enjoyable. Several reputable tour agencies in Pamplona cater to a wide range of preferences and needs.
🐂 The Bull Run Route
Ayuntamiento to Santo Domingo
The Pamplona bull run begins at Ayuntamiento Square. Here, runners gather to sprint along Calle de Santo Domingo, a street filled with anticipation and adrenaline.
As the bulls are released, you must maintain a steady pace alongside them for about 280 meters until reaching the Santo Domingo section. This stretch provided a fantastic mix of excitement and danger – definitely a thrill!
Mercaderes and La Curva
Next up, the route leads you to Calle de Mercaderes. It’s a relatively short section, only about 100 meters long, but staying focused here is essential.
La Curva is the point where Calle de Mercaderes takes a sharp turn into Estafeta Street. What makes this spot particularly challenging is that the bulls tend to lose balance and slide, creating a risky situation for runners. Therefore, extra caution and agility here are key to avoiding any mishaps.
Estafeta and Telefonica
After conquering La Curva, the route turns straight onto Calle de la Estafeta. This section of the bull run is the longest and most famous, at around 300 meters long.
You’ll notice the crowded street with cheering spectators and fellow runners as you run. Then, as you pass by the Telefonica building, an iconic landmark, your adrenaline will be pumping as you near the end of this exhilarating experience.
Callejon and Plaza de Toros
Finally, the last stretch unfolds at the entrance to the Callejon, a narrow passage leading into the Plaza de Toros.
This part requires extra caution, as the bulls became more aggressive while entering the arena. However, as you enter the Plaza de Toros (The Bullring), you have come to the end and can revel in the excitement, fear, and camaraderie.
📋 Rules and Regulations
First and foremost, make sure to wear appropriate running shoes, which are essential for navigating the slippery and narrow streets during the event.
Before joining the run, refresh your memory of the key rules, such as not participating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which can impair judgment and put others at risk. It’s also prohibited to wait in corners, blind spots, doorways, or any premises located along the route before the bulls are released.
You should be positioned near the end of Santo Domingo Street, in front of the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), or at the beginning of Mercaderes Street by 7:00 AM. Being early and finding a safe spot is crucial for safety and allows better anticipation of the bulls’ movements.
During the run, one of the most important safety rules to follow is to stay down if you fall. Trying to get up could bring unwanted attention from the bulls and increase the risk of injury. Also, pay attention to the barricades throughout the course, as they provide your means of escape if needed.
Additionally, respect any signs indicating the closure of particular streets or areas, as these are established for safety and to facilitate the running event. Lastly, listen to the local authorities’ instructions and any directions given by medical staff if assistance is required.
Understanding and following these rules allows participants to enjoy the thrilling experience of running with the bulls while minimising the risk of injuries to yourself and others.
The atmosphere in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento during this event is electrifying, and being prepared and respectful of the rules makes it even more memorable.
⌛ After the Run
Bullfights and the Plaza del Toros
Once the bulls are run each day, you can attend the bullfights at the Plaza del Toros. Many of the bullfighters are seasoned professionals and exhibit remarkable skill and finesse in handling the bulls.
The fights are intensely thrilling, but they also provoke questions about the ethical treatment of animals in these traditional events. So bear that in mind if it’ll upset you.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the entire experience is listening to the tales of fellow runners who have survived the event. They gather in the nearby cafés, sipping coffees while their conversations echo with laughter and awe-inspiring moments from the run.
They exchange anecdotes on how they navigated the route, predicted the bulls’ movements, and maintained safety during the run.
💭 Final Thoughts
Ultimately, participating in the Running of the Bulls becomes an unforgettable experience. The blend of adrenaline, camaraderie, and cultural immersion makes such a trip to Pamplona one that always stays etched in memory.
For those considering attempting the bull run, it’s strongly advised to do thorough research and prepare for this intense adventure. But above all, it’s important to remember to embrace the moment and enjoy this unique experience.
Next, I’d suggest learning about the history of Running of the Bulls in your lead-up to attend the next edition.