The Festival of San Fermin


Every year at the start of July people gather in the small town of Pamplona in Northern Spain for a truly Spanish event.

Long admirers of bull fighting, the residents of Pamplona obviously didn't think this was dangerous enough and joined in running with the bulls from their holding pen to the Bullring.

Now famous worldwide this local festival attracts over 100,000 people each year - If you want to be one of the survivors not the statistics this article could be for you!


Pamploan Bulls

Survival Tip 1 - Avoid The Opening Festival!

The opening of the festival known as the Chupinazo takes place in the main square in front of the City Hall.

Everyone is dressed in white with red neckerchieves.  Carrying vessels of Sangria the multitudes make their way to the main square for a bizzare ceremony.

The ceremony culminates in the launching of a rocket at midday and the unfurling of the Basque flag.  By this point the crowd is at feverpitch following a few hours of pouring sangria down each others throats and calling to the dwellers of the town houses above for Aqua - whereupon they pour down water into revellers mouths.

Strange then to suggest a survival tip is to avoid this.  As the crowd has grown every year there simply is not enough space in the square for everyone.  With midday approaching there is a huge surge by people just out the square to get in.  At 6ft 4" and 15 stone I am not moved easily - there were times during the crushing my feet would not touch the ground for 10 metres in the crush.  How no one was killed I have no idea.

A good tip for survival then, but not one you will take.  You too will be swept up in the excitement and the revelling - and rightly so!

Canvas Poster For San Fermin Bull Run

Survival Tip 2 - Don't Jump Off The Statue

Why this activity has developed is beyond most people but the wildest (or maybe drunkest) festival goers jump off a statue from about 15ft.

The idea is that they are caught by the equally drunk people at the bottom - not great in theory - even worse in practice!  Unfortunately more deaths at the festival occur from this than the Bull run itself.

Now this is the one tip I think you might actually take but who knows - As the alcohol flows and the crowds excitement grows... you may be get braver than you think!

Fountain Jumper - Pamplona

Survival Tip 3 - Don't Run Hungover

Sounds a strange trip but the actual Bull Run forms a very small part of the festival.  The people of Pamplona are so hospitibal you can't help but get swept away in their generosity.  

You will also be surprised at the time you have to get up if you are running.  The bulls are released at 8am but you are advised to get there at least a couple of hours early as the popularity means not everyone can run.

When you are at the start line cursing drink please remember - I told you so!

Survival Tip 4 - Don't Be Too Far Forwards

Your starting point in the run is crucial.  The aim is to get to the Bullring before they close it (only a certain amount of people can get in).  So you want to start as far forwards as possible.  This has the added advantage that by the time the Bulls get to the front they are tired and more at jogging pace.  This is a stark contrast from those right at the back who get to experience angry wild bulls straight out the blocks.

The problem is, because of numbers, the Spanish police enter at the point they feel too many people are involved - if you are in front of that line then you can't run.

A useful survival tip as the Spanish police may not speak English - but they do use the International language of the wooden batton.  Let's just say if the Yankees need a new batsmn then some of these guys already show great technique.

Survival Tip 5 - Don't Be On Either Bend When The Bulls Arrive

The course is 825m and goes up hill from the pen, gluides across the Square then there is a sharp left and a sharp right before a straight all the way to the Bullring.

The reason for not being on either bend when the Bulls get there is because Bulls can't turn corners.

You won't take this tip either though - not because you don't want to but you have no choice.  The crowd is so packed that it will dictate what pace you move and where you are.

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Finally - Throw The Tips Out The Window

You can think about these tips all you want but if you are thinking about running then RUN!  

The experience is about the danger and the thrill.

Perhaps the best advice is just to hope for the best!