BFF: It's ok man. Just be yourself.
Me: You think I should be all of me? I was thinking I should start off small and... you know... Albanize over time.
BFF: Yes. That's better.
Part 4 is the bull ring. Things aren't over once the run is complete. They shut the doors. This is both to keep anybody else from coming in, as well as keep anybody who is in from going out. The stands are filled with people who bought tickets to watch the bull run on the big screen tv, and to watch what was about to happen next.
The runners stand in the middle of the ring. There are hundreds of them. Some manage to climb the wall and jump out of the ring, while others hold on to the wall for dear life. The remaining runners stay in the center.
One at a time, a young bull is released into the ring. They are there for the runners to "play" with; To pretend to be matadors and dodge out of the way of a charging bull. Keep in mind that a young bull is still 800 lbs. Even though the horns are taped up to prevent goring, you can still get hurt pretty badly by these bulls.
Now, I have no stories to tell you about what happened next. Not on facebook anyways. My mom will read them. And there are some things that moms just don't want (or need) to know about. No, these are the stories that can only be told face to face and be passed along by word of mouth. Because no matter how brave a person is, there comes a time when that person will fear the wrath of his mom much more than 12 running bulls.
I was running.
It wasn't an all out sprint but it wasn't leisurely either. Shouting filled my ears as I heard the cow bells grow closer. The person behind me had a hand on me. Partially to keep his balance, partially to push me forward.
"I can't go any faster," I thought. There's no where to go. There are people in front of me. Part of me thought about swatting his hand away, for fear of him knocking me down. I was too busy staying upright to make the attempt.
Suddenly, the person in front of me starts to fall down. Instantly, I see a pile up of people at his feet. I high stepped over and around them. I can't afford to fall down. I can't afford be stopped here. I wasn't even concerned about getting trampled at this point. I was more focused on making it into the bull ring.
I regained my balance and continued the run. The hand was no longer on my shoulder, but I knew another person will soon take his spot.
I never looked back.
Suddenly, the cow bells were upon us. The people who were in the center pushed towards the side. I, who was left center, was moved closer to the wall. I looked to my right. Mighty bulls were rumbling past me. It brought to mind the earth shaking created by a herd of bison on the great plains. I was in awe. I was about 2 meters to the side of the bulls, so I felt reasonably secure that I was safe. But those were just the ones to my side. There is no telling where the bulls were behind me.
To my right, I saw someone go down under a bull. He was probably trampled. I told myself he will probably be ok.
Finally, the last bull of the pack moved ahead of me. Wanting to stay with them and not get left behind, I pushed towards center. "How many bulls just passed me? Was that all of them? Were there others far behind?" I didn't hear cow bells, so I took the risk and moved towards center.
As we came out of the street into the open air, I saw the bull ring in front of me. Almost there. I watched the door to make sure it wasn't closing. I needed to get inside. Just another 20 meters to go.
Suddenly, I tripped on another pile of people. The person behind me fell on top of me. I was on one hand and two feet, down by football terms. "Should I stay down as the rules suggest? Or should I keep going?" I quickly pushed back upright as one of the police officers tried to push me back down.
I stumbled to the gate, crashing into a wall as I dodged around bodies.
I ran through the tunnel, hoping to not fall again.
I made it through the other side.
The entire ring was filled with cheers from the stands. Other runners were in the center of the ring with me, raising their hands in victory. I raised my arms with them and shouted for joy.
I wrote my bull run experience in four parts. The second part was the most interesting to me. Out of the entire run, this was the most intense, and certainly the most heart pounding. At no other time was the fear more palpable than this. The tension of waiting along with the decision to stand my ground as others rushed past me increased to a crescendo at this point, breaking only when I turned and began to run. I hope that this tidbit will help to share with you the experience I had.
"Run! They're coming!"
And just like that, people everywhere exploded in a running frenzy.
I ran about 20 meters before I started to slow down. At 30, I stopped completely. I turned around to look. People continued to run by me. I thought to myself, I didn't hear any rockets yet. (The first rocket signifies that the door has been opened. The second signifies that all the bulls have left their pens). I then asked myself, was I too far away to hear them?
I looked back to where I previously stood. There were still a few people standing there who had not moved an inch. "Crap. Another false alarm." This was shredding at my already exposed nerves.
Like a fish swimming upstream, I jogged back to my previous position while other people were still running past me. I asked one of the guys still standing there what time it was in Spanish.
"One minuto" he told me.
The tension in the air was thick. Many people were jittery. Some of the other runners had realised it was a false alarm and stopped as well. They did not come back. Others continued to run anyways.
Then I heard it. A faint, but clear explosion. The crowd in the balconies surrounding us let up a great roar. Seconds later, a second explosion was heard.
People began to run again. All around me, people were yelling and running down the path.
I stood my ground. Several others stood their ground with me. I refused to run too early. I refused to be one of the first to enter the bull ring. I refused to compromise this experience by running before the bulls were even near me. I needed to see them.
More and more people began to pick up and run. The running crowd grew thicker. People started pushing past me. I was an obstacle to them. If I was a fish swimming upstream before, now I was a rock withstanding the crashing tides of the ocean.
I heard the people up in the balconies let up a great roar again. "The bulls must have just come around dead man's corner and made it onto my street," I thought. I heard the roar in the balconies slowly make its way up from the end of the street towards me, like a wave of sound.
"They getting closer. It is almost time," I thought.
By now, there were so many people running around me that I couldn't see anything. I was blind. I didn't see anyone standing still anymore. Everyone was running.
"How far away were the bulls?"
I started to jump up as high as I could. I saw people who had climbed up walls and were now hanging onto the second floor balcony. They were waiting for the bulls to pass before they started running. I saw a wall of people coming at me, thicker than the rest. They were about 50 feet away. I couldn't see the bulls. Were they behind them or in front of them? I kept jumping.
All around me, it was madness as people were desperately running past me, shoving me around in the process. Shouting. Fear and panic were painted on their faces. Hundreds of people have already run by.
40 feet away.
"Nerves of steel. Nerves of steel." I kept telling myself. I breathed deeply and forced myself to stay. It dawned on me that the bulls are running faster than that wall of people, and when the bulls pierce through, they would be right upon me, standing right in the center of the street. "I need to move soon."
30 feet away.
Seconds passed. Then I heard it. The sound of cow bells.
I turned around and began to run.