Sat, Jul 10, 2004 - Page 16 News List

The ultimate adrenalin rush is to be found in Pamplona

Skydiving and bungee jumpingare for sissies. Try out-runningangry 600kg bulls for a thrill

REUTERS , Pamplona, Spain

Spain's San Fermin bull-running fiesta attracts all manner of thrill-seekers.

"I've never been seriously injured. I lost my kidney one year," said Bomber, a 56-year-old Californian, after one early morning run.

Fellow American R.J. Smith ran with the bulls in Pamplona for the 31st time this year, despite a long white scar from a bull's goring on his buttock and a false hip beneath it which bear witness to his bull-running addiction.

Some come to San Fermin for the fiesta and never see a bull, some come to see their friends and others to follow writer Ernest Hemingway's footsteps. But for many the bull-running fiesta has become a mecca for adrenalin junkies of all ages from all over the world.

Smith, a 67-year-old former air force pilot who still hang-glides on skis, says bull-running is obsessive.

"It draws you. Once you do it you want to do it again and again and again."

That seemed to be the case for his godson who came to Pamplona for the second time this year, despite swearing after his first experience he never would.

"I got out and I said I'm never doing this ever again. It scared me so damn bad," Daniel Voltz said the night before the first of this year's runs. He ran the following morning along the slippery cobbled streets and survived unscathed.

That day, in an unusually clean run, only five people were taken to hospital.

Bomber says he has missed only one fiesta in the last 33 years.

"It's very very difficult, your adrenalin ... and your imagination [are] running and it's very hard not to run."

Extreme sport aficionados say there's nothing quite like a 600kg beast pointing his deadly horns at you with no one there to bail you out.

"I've done bungee jumping, parachuting, parascending, diving ... always finding the next stupid thing to do ... This is the best so far. I'm not sure what follows," said Mark Kinder, a 31-year-old information technology manager from England.

"I'm a little bit of an adrenalin junkie."


The running of the bulls is a centuries-old tradition that became internationally famous when Hemingway -- whose statue stands outside the Pamplona bullring -- set part of his 1920s tale of thwarted passion, The Sun Also Rises, here.

Organizers say 1.5 million people come each year to the July 6 to July 14 fiesta.

Thousands of people gather just after dawn into a narrow 825m stretch of road that leads from the bulls' corral to the ring, where the animals come up against a matador that evening.

Some swig from traditional Spanish wine skins as they wait for the bulls to be let out, while police haul those who are very drunk through the barriers to safety.

Red Cross staff perch on the gates at regular intervals ready to scoop up the injured. Locals and foreigners crowd around the barriers to catch a few seconds of the run.

At 8am a rocket is set off and six bulls followed by a handful of steers charge towards the runners. Some start jogging, some have second thoughts and bail over the fence and some linger, waiting for the bulls to get closer.

People trip up, roll under the legs of the bulls, get trampled on or stepped over and every year someone gets a part of their body pierced by a bull's horn.

Watch those horns

Bulls are chosen for Pamplona for having the biggest horns.

In 1995 a young American Matthew Tassio fell over on the run and when he stood up a bull's horn went into his back. In 1947 a bull killed a local butcher, slicing through his stomach, liver and lung and then killed a soldier within minutes.

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