July 8, 2009—About two thousand people took to the streets of Pamplona for the first of eight bull runs, finishing the course in a quick two-and-a-half minutes.
© 2009 National Geographic (AP)
Spanish television reports about two-thousand people took part in the first of eight traditional running of the bulls this week through the northern Spanish city of Pamplona.
It was the start of the San Fermin Festival, made famous by Ernest Hemingways novel The Sun Also Rises.
People come from all over the world to test their bravery and enjoy non-stop street parties during the more than week-long festival.
A rocket launched from the balcony of Pamplona town hall signals the start, and gates to a holding pen where the bulls are kept are opened.
Six fighting bulls and six bell-tinkling steers, meant to keep them in a tight-pack, charge down the streets of the old town toward the bull ring.
Runners, wearing traditional white clothing and red kerchiefs around their necks, tripped over each other or fell after getting bumped by bulls or steers, but apparently no one was seriously trampled on this run.
The course is 850 meters, or about 930 yards, and this run lasted about 2 and a half minutes, fast by San Fermin standards.
The Spanish Red Cross reports four people were hospitalized with bumps, bruises or scrapes.
Fourteen people have died at San Fermin since record-keeping began in 1924, most recently an American in 1995. In 2003, a 63-year-old Pamplona native was trampled and died after months in a coma.
The run has been condemned by animal rights activists, who point out the bulls are often injured, as well. And that the bullfights that follow end in death to the animals.