There’s only one requirement…
Must be slightly insane.
Every year, hundreds of people participate in the Pamplona bull run where they sprint through a maze of cobblestone streets to escape chasing bulls.
But first let’s tackle a few questions:
- Is it dangerous? Yes.
- Do people get hurt? Yes.
- Can women participate? Yes! And they have…
Fellow travel blogger – Oneika the Traveller and her three girlfriends – tested their insanity and ran with the bulls last year.
Get her insider tips and secrets on how to survive the world’s most famous bull run and how you can join too…
Interview with Oneika on the Pamplona Bull Run
What is the Pamplona Bull Run?
The Running of the Bulls (known also as the Sanfermines) is a festival held every July 6th to 14th in Pamplona, Spain.
It is held in honor of San Fermin, the patron saint of the region.
While a number of celebrations take place throughout the festival, the ‘main event’ so to speak is the daily bull run, where spectators literally run with the bulls as the animals make their way from the holding pen to the bullring. Bullfights are held every evening of the festival and the running of the bulls started simply as a way to get the bulls into the ring from their pen outside of the city.
However, adventurous and thrill-seeking spectators soon joined in the 825 meter dash with the bulls.
How did you first hear about Running of the Bulls and when did you decide to participate?
I don’t remember exactly when I first heard about the festival, but I do remember seeing pictures and thinking that it would be an amazing thing to experience. It was only when another blogger, Jeannie Mark of Nomadic Chick, proposed the idea of rallying a group of female bloggers to participate in the event that I realistically thought of taking part.
Can you briefly explain how Running of the Bulls works (before, during and after the run)?
There is much ceremony involving the whole procedure of the bull run but I’ll try to be as brief as possible.
Bulls are held in pens overnight on the edge of the city of Pamplona, only about a kilometer away from the ring.
In the morning, runners assemble themselves all along the route and wait for the two cannon shots to sound at 8am, which signal that the bulls have left their holding pen and are charging to the ring. As the bulls charge, runners essentially run with them, with the bravest running directly in front and trying to touch the bull’s flanks or their horns.
I should note that there are 12 to 15 bulls and they are huge!
The run can last up to three minutes and culminates in the bulls making it to the bull ring. Spectators and runners also gather in the ring after the run, and some dodge the bulls as for twenty minutes after the run they run free in the ring.
In the evening at around 6pm there is a bullfight.
How did you research and plan your trip Running of the Bulls? Any specific websites or blogs that are good resources?
My girl group and I did a lot of research online in order to ascertain the best place along the route to run, what to wear, and what to expect. We got a lot of good information from the official website of the festival, SanFermin.com.
With the things we learned we also created our own website of helpful advice for female runners, which is called Girls Who Run With Bulls.
What clothes and gear did you wear?
For the San Fermines you are expected to wear red and white clothing every day of the festival: it is customary to pair a white blouse with white pants along with a red kerchief tied around the neck.
For a girl who has never owned a pair of red or white pants this was a challenge, but luckily it is very easy to find these clothes in Pamplona. I bought a pair of white jeans, stocked up on white tank tops, and bought the bandanna at a roadside stand in town. I wore running shoes.
What advice can you give women about what to wear?
Ladies, leave the heels and sandals at home! Not only will you be walking a lot in sangria-soaked streets during the festival, you will essentially be running for your life if you choose to participate in the bull run.
I can’t emphasize the importance of wearing comfortable shoes that have a grip on them (the cobblestone roads are very slippery)!
Likewise, be sure to wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty — they will be experiencing a fair bit of wear and tear.
Did you run with other people or on your own?
As I mentioned, I ran with other female bloggers; there were four of us in total.
What was the run like? Terrain, distance, difficulty, well marked, etc.?
Exhilarating and scary at the same time!
The roads were very slippery and the run in general was chaotic as there were so many people along the route! It’s not particularly difficult to run but the sheer volume of people and chaos make it easy to fall and get trampled.
I actually think that I was more afraid of getting trampled by people than being attacked by a bull.
Did you experience or see any injuries?
I actually got elbowed in the eye but no blood was drawn thankfully! The day before we ran we watched the bull run from a balcony and saw someone nearly get pierced by a bull’s horn. Close call!
What advice or tips can you give women who might be considering Running of the Bulls?
Definitely make sure you are well aware of the route, procedure, and potential dangers.
Did you face any challenges being a woman runner?
I didn’t feel that I faced any in particular, really. Not many women run but our group was treated very well by the male runners and they were super encouraging in general.
Did people coordinating the event speak English or did you face any language barriers?
Most people only spoke Spanish, but as I speak Spanish fairly fluently I didn’t have any trouble understanding nor communicating. My blogger friends do not speak Spanish, however, so I often ended up being the mouthpiece/translator for our group.
Where did you sleep and what were the accommodations like? Any advice on accommodations?
Book accommodations EARLY! The good stuff fills up fast, leaving only a handful of disappointing options. We had sponsored accommodation but it wasn’t very nice I’m afraid. However, it was very centrally located.
What were your three favorite Spanish meals? Please add details on what the meal is and general ingredients.
I love gambas al ajillo, which is basically shrimp cooked in garlic. I also am a huge fan of grilled pulpo (octopus) and torta espanola, which is basically a potato omelette.
How did Running of the Bulls change you?
It taught me to conquer my fears and face them head on! I learned to challenge myself and be bold!
Would you Run of the Bulls again?
I don’t think I would do it again, actually! While I really enjoyed the experience, it was nerve-wracking and a bit exhausting! I am definitely glad that I have done it though!
Any other thoughts or advice for our women readers?
Again, being well-informed is the best preparation!
Thank you Oneika for sharing your experience on Trekity!