Video: Running with the bulls in Spain

Image: San Fermin festival in Pamplona
Susana Vera  /  Reuters
A man runs in between the horns of a Penajara fighting bull on the first day of the running of the bulls during the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain, on Wednesday.
By
updated 7/7/2010 6:00:52 AM ET 2010-07-07T10:00:52

Thousands of daredevils dashed through the narrow streets of Pamplona's historic old quarter on Wednesday for a goring-free first bull run of this year's San Fermin fiesta that unofficially ushers in Spain's summer party season lasting through August.

The thrillseekers raced to keep ahead of six fighting bulls and six bell-tinkling steers tasked with trying to keep the beasts together along the 930-yard course from a holding pen to the northern city's bull ring.

Several runners were knocked to the ground and some were trampled on by the animals weighing more than 1,100 pounds but there were no gorings or life-threatening injuries.

An 18-year-old man from Melbourne, Australia, suffered an eye injury and a 20-year old Spaniard suffered multiple contusions, the government of Navarra state said on its website. Both were hospitalized under observation but their injuries were not considered serious. The statement identified them only by their initials.

The 8 a.m. run is the highlight of the nine-day street drinking festival, and comes after a full day and night of hard partying.

Dozens of runners, dressed in the festival's traditional white shirts and pants with red sashes, sang a chant to a statue of San Fermin at the start of the route seconds before a firecracker rocket blast signaled the release of the bulls from the pen.

Waiting on a corner was retired American pilot Peter Rostow, who then dashed about 35 yards alongside the bulls on a cobblestoned street before taking cover in a doorway, his heart pumping with adrenaline. He drank no wine or sangria the day before to prepare — only water.

"I know bulls, but they came about a hundred times faster than I thought they would," said Rostow, 58, of Austin, Texas. "I wasn't prepared for that, and the intensity of the senses was overwhelming, the smell of the bulls, the sound of them running, and the fear."

The run, broadcast live on national television, lasted 2 minutes and 45 seconds, a relatively fast sprint that saw the bulls staying together and paying little attention to the runners.

Spaniard Alfonso Gamboa didn't run but said the race was considered a good one because the bulls stayed in a tight pack, making it easier for runners who generally seemed sober to sprint safely and without the diversion of a lone wild bull.

"They went quickly and together, and because of that the people could run well," said Gamboa, 50, a Pamplona businessman. "It was pretty, and there weren't a lot of drunks."

After the run, people packed the bull ring to chase and taunt young calves while others resumed partying around the town, swilling beer, sangria and wine on the streets and in packed bars. The festival features eight bull runs in total.

Basque separatists
The party's start on Tuesday was marred when Basque separatists prohibited from displaying their flag on a huge stage in a plaza raised one into the air from a celebrating crowd of tens of thousands and unfurled a banner demanding that terrorists convicted of bombings and killings be moved to prisons closer to their relatives.

Police intervened, beating people with batons, and fist fights also broke out between supporters of the ETA Basque separatist group and Spaniards opposed to the Basque independence movement.

Some hurled beer and champagne bottles at officers, but ended up hitting people in the crowd instead, witnesses said.

An Associated Press reporter saw police removing the Basque flag from the plaza, and four officers carried out one man who appeared to be injured or unconscious.

Police at the scene declined comment. The Diario de Navarra newspaper reported Wednesday that a 31-year-old Spanish woman suffered serious injuries after being hit in the head with a bottle.

But the party resumed quickly after the melee, masses of partiers drinking all night on the streets of Pamplona, yelling "San Fermin!" and "Ole!"

The bulls that ran Wednesday morning will be killed in the evening in the bull ring, and their meat gets served up in Pamplona's restaurants.

Dozens are injured each year in the morning runs. Most get hurt after falling, but some are gored and trampled by the beasts. Last year's festival saw the first fatal goring in nearly 15 years.

Associated Press writers Ciaran Giles and Victor Caivano contributed from Madrid and Pamplona.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Pamplona Celebrates

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  1. Participants fall to the ground during the last day of running of the bulls at the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain, on Wednesday, July 14. (Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Two fighting bulls from the Jandilla ranch slip as the herd turns into a sharp corner in the old city of Pamplona on July 14. (Jim Hollander / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A "Kiliki" rests before dancing on the last day of the San Fermin festival's "Comparsa de gigantes y cabezudos" (Parade of the giants and the big heads) in Pamplona, on July 14. Enormous puppets accompanied by brass bands parade daily through the city during the nine-day-long festival made popular by U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A couple sits on a bench bathed in light filtered through trees in Pamplona, early July 13. (Vincent West / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Spanish bullfighter Juan Jose Padilla is gored by a fighting bull weighing nearly 1,300 pounds during the San Fermin festival in Pamplona on July 11. Padilla hung onto the bull's horns and then was flipped and pinned on the sand before being able to roll free. He was assessed by medical staff, then returned to kill the bull. (Jesus Diges / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Participants run in front of a fighting bull as it enters the Plaza de Torros bull ring in Pamplona on July 11. (Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A couple kiss during the San Fermin fiestas early on July 9 in Pamplona. (Ivan Aguinaga / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A runner is knocked down by a Cebada Gago fighting bull at Estafeta Corner during the second running of the bulls on the third day of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona on July 8. The Spanish runner was among six people who were hospitalized following a run that lasted 3 minutes and 30 seconds, according to local news sources. (Eloy Alonso / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Spanish Matador Francisco Marco is gored by a Cebada Gago'ss bull at Pamplona's bullring on July 8. (Ander Gillenea / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A fighting cow leaps over revelers during festivities in the bullring after the second running of the bulls on July 8. Six people were hospitalized, after two were gored following the run. (Joseba Etxaburu / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A participant falls while others run in front of Cebada Gago´s fighting bulls during the second running of the bulls on July 8. (Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Revelers sleep in a park before the start of the second bull run. (Alvaro Barrientos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Revelers walk amid trash strewn about Plaza del Castillo after a night of partying during the San Fermin fiestas on July 8. (Alvaro Barrientos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A matador's assistant administers the 'coup de grace' or 'blow of mercy,' killing the bull during the first bullfight of the San Fermin fiestas on July 7. (Victor R. Caivano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A bullfighter's assistant places a pair of 'banderillas,' or wooden sticks, in front of a charging bull of the Penajara ranch in Pamplona, during the first bullfight on July 7. (Victor R. Caivano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A reveler is tossed by a fighting cow during festivities in the bull ring after the first running of the bulls on the second day of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona on July 7. Several runners were knocked to the ground and some were trampled by the animals but no one was gored and there were no life-threatening injuries. (Joseba Etxaburu / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A fighting cow leaps over revelers during festivities in the bull ring after the first running of the bulls at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona on July 7. (Joseba Etxaburu / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Revelers are stepped over by fighting bulls during the San Fermin festival on July 7. (Ana Castro / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A man gets medical care after being gored by a fighting bulls on the first San Fermin Festival bull run, on July. (Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Participants wait for fighting bulls on the first San Fermin Festival bull run in Pamplona on July 7. (Ander Gillenea / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. People watch from balconies over Estafeta street in Pamplona for the running of the bulls during the San Fermin fiestas on July 7. (Victor R. Caivano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Revelers crowd the streets during the start of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona on July 6. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Revelers are soaked with water thrown from a balcony at the start of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona on July 6. (Joseba Etxaburu / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Revelers hold up traditional red neckties during the 'Chupinazo,' the official opening of the San Fermin fiestas in Pamplona, on July 6. (Alvaro Barrientos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Revelers hold up traditional red neckties during the 'Chupinazo." (Victor R. Caivano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A reveler drinks out of a wine skin during the start of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona on July 6. (Eloy Alonso / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Revelers throw a woman into the air during the 'Chupinazo', the official opening of the San Fermin fiestas in Pamplona, on July 6. (Alvaro Barrientos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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