Running with the bulls is dangerous and is not recommended. Each year dozens of people require medical attention after running with the bulls. It is important to get tips on running with the bulls from people who have run before.
The biggest problem is that people run with very little knowledge of what to expect. The other major reason why there are so many injuries is that people often run whilst incredibly drunk.
Imagine a mountain climber or base jumper drinking before doing their own dangerous activities!
Here are the tips I have picked up from people who have run and survived. If you have more tips to add to this page, email me and I will add them (click on my name at the top of the page to send me an email).
In no way does this advice constitute safe passage through the Pamplona Running of the Bulls. Hundreds of hyperactive people running from six angry bulls are unpredictable - this advice is simply intended to assist you. If you insist on running - good luck!
Don't deceive yourself into thinking that bull runs are somehow a safer, more humane equivalent to Spain's bullfighting. Firstly, the bulls you run with in the morning will be in a bullfight later in the evening. Secondly, bulls' hooves are not designed to run on cobblestones. Bulls trip and often break their legs.
Another thing to remember is that the bull run begins at 8 am.
You could get up early to do the run, but most people in Pamplona party all night. It is silly to drink all night and then try to run. You wouldn't swim with sharks while drunk, so doesn't consider running with bulls when you are inebriated.
Also, remember that there are bull runs all week long. You don't have to run on the first day!
Party all night, drink and watch the first bull run. You can run the next day.
Would we recommend running with the bulls? No.
How to Get the Most Out of Running with the Bulls in Pamplona
This first piece of advice is not about safety but about getting out of the event what you came for - running with the bulls.
- Two firecrackers go off. The first is to alert you that the bulls have been released from the pen. The second is to say that they have started running towards the runners. Unless you are at the start of the run, neither of these firecrackers is a signal for you to run. If you do, you'll never see the bulls. Instead, follow those behind you. When they start to run, it's time for you to run too.
Unfortunately, waiting for the bulls to approach makes the whole thing more dangerous (not waiting means you can't really say you've run with the bulls. So, to stay safe, follow the following advice.
Number One Tip: Follow the Official Rules
These are adapted from the official rules issued by the town council, with a few extra notes (I've also removed some rules intended for local residents only).
- Under 18s may not run or enter the course.
- Do not climb on or over the fences.
- Do not hide in corners, dead ends or doorways on the route before the release of the bulls (of course, if you need to take refuge in such places during the run, that is OK)
- Those who are drunk, drugged or otherwise perceived to be a danger to others, will not be allowed to run. (You will be removed and kept away from the course during the bull run, which means you may miss it all!)
- Do not carry anything while running.
- Participants must be dressed appropriately. This includes traditional San Fermin costumes and appropriate footwear.
- Do not distract, grab onto, harass or mistreat the animals.
- Do not take photos from within the course.
- Follow all instructions from the authorities (this point may be a little difficult if you don't speak Spanish - just follow the others.
- All participants should congregate on the Cuesta de Santo Domingo, between the military hospital and the plaza. There is a doorway in the Plaza del Mercado which will be closed at 7.30am.
How to Stay Safe Running with the Bulls in Pamplona
- Don't run on your first day there - watch the first time, to get an idea of what to expect. If at all possible, walk the course with someone who has run before.
- Not only should you avoid running on the first day for the reasons mentioned above - it is also possible that you won't even be allowed to run. Each year, more and more people come to Pamplona to run with the bulls and the first day is the most popular. As a result, the police are getting stricter on who they allow running - an inexperienced looking foreigner is more likely to pull from the crowd on the first day than on any other day.
- Your biggest fear should be not of the bulls but of other people around you falling on top of you or tripping in front of you. With the vast numbers of people, running this happens a lot. Even if you think you can outrun a bull, take into account that when five people fall in front of you, it is going to be difficult to take evasive action.
- If you go down, stay down. Cover your face and just lie there. You might get a few bruises but it is safer than trying to get up. Onlookers will tap you on the shoulder with a rolled-up newspaper when it is safe to move.
- Take the corners tight, as the bulls are going to go wide.
- Start with what is known as 'dead man's corner'. It is 300 meters from the end and is marked as such. Swallow your pride, starting at the beginning will result in injuries. It is also unlikely that you will be able to start at the beginning anyway, as the police try to pick out the tourists and take them to a safer starting point.
- Don't drink. If that is impossible, don't drink too much.
- Get some sleep. There is a park nearby where a lot of people sleep. Just make sure you don't have anything valuable on you.
- If you want to get into the arena, don't fall too far behind the bulls, as they will close the gates shortly after the bulls have entered. You don't need to actually participate in the arena action: once in the ring, you are free to climb the wall and watch from the safety of the spectator areas. However, don't run too close behind the bull, you don't want to risk it turning around and causing more trouble!
Pamplona Bull Run Route
See also: Map of the Running of the Bulls Route.
- Cuesta de Santo Domingo
The steep uphill start to the Pamplona running of the bulls. Up by the church is probably the best place to watch from (along with the bull ring at the end).
- Plaza del Ayuntamiento to the Curva de Mercaderes
Plenty of places of refuge and wide spaces here.
- Calle Estafeta
A dangerous corner where the bulls always run wide.
- Baja de Javier, Duque de Ahumada, Telefonica building
The street narrows here and crowding can occur. Few places to hide. This late in the run, the bulls spread out. Though a bull is big and easy to spot, they're easier to spot when they're in a group!
A dangerous bottleneck. Though the animals are getting tired and are slowing, the humans are too, which can cause chaos.
- Plaza de Toros
The bulls are allowed to run amongst the runners for a period before being led away. Jump into the stands if it all becomes too much. It was here that Ray Ducharme was seriously injured in 2006.