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Bull Leaping

Since I’m coming up on one of those “milestone birthdays”, I’ve been trying to accomplish some things in my last year before being officially older than God.  :)  I got my Kitsune tattoo, I’m working on a project which I will *fingers crossed* have a chance of publishing, I want to have a boudoir shoot done, totally starkers  (not for the first time, of course – but it’s something that I want to do for myself now rather than for someone else), and I want to do the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona in July. I’ll put some of this behind a cut for those bored by stupid activities or those who can’t get past the fact that the bulls are raised for a blood sport.

Yes, that part bothers me a bit as well – I am a total animal lover, and you won’t find anyone who is more soft-hearted about animals. I don’t deny that bullfighting is a blood sport. Contrary to a lot of people who have opinions about it, it can be anything from a ballet of courage and death to something shamefully horrific (I’ve seen both) – but you can’t get away from the fact that everyone is there, basically, to watch animals die. Yes, I grew up in ranch country where animals were raised to be slaughtered for food, and everyone I know hunts – so perhaps I have a different viewpoint. So, point taken that it is a cruel blood sport, but I am setting that discussion aside.

Why is this something I feel strongly about doing?  Well, I did a lot of thinking about what I wanted to do for this birthday. I wanted something symbolic, something that would test me, something to act as a rite of passage. I’d always been fascinated by bullfighters as a kid, and wondered how it would feel to stand there, calm, cold, as I performed my veronicas and so on, drawing the bull around me on every pass. I’ll never know that would feel, but this would be close. It reminds me of the frescoes showing bull leaping, and the myths of Amazon warrior maidens somersaulting over the bulls as their rite of passage into adulthood.

It stands for not being afraid.

So…having decided to do this totally mad thing, I have been researching and making plans. I’ve read about the route, and the most dangerous spots. I’m trying to get a hotel booked (even now, nine months in advance, everything is almost booked!) and airfare. For those interested, some interesting links and videos after the jump (which will allow me to keep track of information as well). And now, a lighter view (“Woaah!!!”) of the event: City Slickers.

From the Council of Pamplona: Advice to Runners.

The Bull Run in figures

  • Time: 8 am
  • Dates: 7th to the 14th of July
  • Route: 848.6 metres. Santo Domingo, Plaza Consistorial, Mercaderes, Estafeta and the Bullring.
  • Average duration: 3 m 55 s
  • Speed of bulls: 24 km/h
  • The longest Bull Run: 30 minutes (11th of July 1959).
  • The most tragic Bull Run: 10th of July 1947 and 13th of July 1980. ‘Semillero’ (Urquijo) and ‘Antioquío’ (Guardiola) killed two runners apiece.
  • Number of runners: 2,000 on weekdays and almost 3,500 at weekends.
  • Most dangerous breed: Guardiola Fantoni. These bulls claimed one life in 1969 and two in 1980.
  • Number of injured a year: Between 200 and 300. Only 3% seriously.
  • Lives lost: 14
  • Last person gored to death: Matthew Peter Tasio (22 years of age, Illinois, USA) was gored to death on the 13th of July 1995 in the Plaza Consistorial by “Castellano”, a bull belonging to the Torrestrella ranch.  (Note: two people have died since this was written.)

These are videos from the 2009 run. From what I can tell from reading and watching videos, it’s experience that will make for a successful run. Not speed or fitness, contrary to what you may think – an Olympic runner couldn’t outrun these animals). There are areas which are considered to be the most dangerous, and you need to walk the course in advance with an experienced runner to plan your run. There are corners where the bulls tend to pile into the outside wall, for example, and you want to be on the inside. If you fall in front of the bulls, do not get up – lie in a fetal position until they have passed. (This is how one person was killed.) There are funnel areas which are considered to be extremely dangerous.

That said, generally it doesn’t look that bad, as the first video shows – exciting, but fairly uneventful. The second one demonstrates how dangerous it can be if an animal turns around, gets separated from the others, and starts running back into the runners.

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