The Festival of San Fermin starts every July 6 in Pamplona, Spain. But it is what happens the next day, and every day for a week, that has made the Festival famous.
It is the running of the bulls.
As a young man, reading about the event in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” it became a bucket list thing for me.
Years later, when I was old enough to know better, my then-boss John Robert Starr asked what was at the top of the list of things I wanted to do.
I told him it was running with the bulls. (I was a big Hemingway fan back then.)
He said, “Book it.”
I quickly found out you don’t make reservations to run with the bulls — you show up.
When I did it 35 years ago, the rules were simple: If your feet touch the street (they are barricaded to keep the bulls in a specific area), you must run. If your feet touch the cobblestones, you are running and must pay the tax (they give you a red sash after you pay). No drunks allowed, and no women allowed.
The last two rules were generally ignored, but not the first two.
I had not planned to run the first day because the number of runners was outrageous. (The festival started on a Sunday that year.)
I parked my rental car in a field, picked my way through drunks who had slept in the field all night to be there, and found a good spot on a barricade to study the race.
The streets kept filling in, and just before 8 a.m., when they started the race by firing off a fireworks rocket, everything changed in a heartbeat.
Many heartbeats in fact.