Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

The Beginner’s Guide To The Running Of The Bulls


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Kamila Garton



Welcome to the thrilling world of the Running of the Bulls, an exhilarating and time-honored tradition that takes place every year in Pamplona, Spain. This heart-pounding event, known as the Encierro in Spanish, is part of the larger Festival of San Fermín, a week-long celebration marked by music, dancing, and, of course, the iconic bull runs.


Originating from a centuries-old need to transport the bulls from the corrals to the bullring, the Running of the Bulls has evolved into a daring and adrenaline-fueled spectacle that attracts participants from all over the world. The event has gained international recognition, drawing both professional and amateur runners eager to test their mettle against the formidable force of charging bulls.


During the eight days of the festival, the narrow streets of Pamplona come alive with excitement and anticipation. Thousands of spectators gather to witness the spectacle, while daredevils from every corner of the globe gather to challenge their fear and sprint alongside the majestic yet dangerous animals. The sheer spectacle of it all is enough to send both participants and onlookers’ pulses racing.


In this beginner’s guide, we will delve into the history of the event, provide insights on how to prepare for the run, explain the route and course, and offer tips and advice on how to navigate the rules and risks associated with this adrenaline-fueled tradition. Whether you’re a curious traveler or an aspiring participant, this guide aims to help you understand and appreciate the Running of the Bulls in all its glory.


History of the Running of the Bulls

The history of the Running of the Bulls dates back several centuries, rooted in the rich traditions and cultural heritage of the region. The origins of the event can be traced to the need to transport the bulls from the corrals to the bullring for bullfights.


In the early 14th century, the Festival of San Fermín was established in honor of the patron saint of Pamplona. The festival, held annually from July 6th to July 14th, marked a time of celebration and homage to Saint Fermín. As part of the festivities, the tradition of running with the bulls emerged as a way to bring the bulls from the outskirts of the city to the bullring.


Over time, the ritual evolved into a thrilling spectacle, attracting not only locals but also adventurers and thrill-seekers from all corners of the globe. The event gained international recognition when it was featured in Ernest Hemingway’s novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” further cementing its status as a symbol of Spanish cultural pride.


While the Running of the Bulls has become an iconic event in Pamplona, it is important to note that it is not without controversy. Animal rights activists have voiced concerns about the treatment and well-being of the bulls during the festival. Efforts have been made to address these concerns, with stricter regulations implemented to ensure the welfare of the animals.


Today, the Running of the Bulls has become an integral part of the Festival of San Fermín, attracting thousands of brave souls who are willing to face the adrenaline-fueled challenge of running alongside the powerful beasts. It has transformed from a simple means of bull transportation to a unique and thrilling experience that captures the spirit and vitality of this vibrant Spanish tradition.


The Festival of San Fermín

The Festival of San Fermín is a week-long celebration that takes place in Pamplona, Spain, from July 6th to July 14th each year. It is named after Saint Fermín, the patron saint of the city, and is renowned for its lively atmosphere, rich cultural traditions, and, of course, the iconic Running of the Bulls.


The festival begins on July 6th with the ceremonial launching of a rocket from the city hall balcony, known as the “Chupinazo.” This event marks the official start of the festivities and is accompanied by music, dancing, and colorful parades through the streets of Pamplona.


Throughout the week, the city comes alive with a myriad of activities and events. The streets are decorated with streamers and balconies adorned with red and white flags, the official colors of San Fermín. The air is filled with the sounds of live music, traditional Basque folk dances, and the excited chatter of locals and visitors alike.


One of the most significant highlights of the festival is the bullfights, held in the Plaza de Toros de Pamplona, the city’s bullring. These bullfights attract renowned matadors from Spain and around the world, showcasing their courage and skill in this centuries-old tradition.


However, the centerpiece of the festival is undoubtedly the daily Running of the Bulls. Each morning at 8:00 a.m., six fighting bulls, guided by a group of experienced bullherds, are released onto the streets of Pamplona. Thousands of runners, wearing traditional white clothing with red scarves, gather to test their bravery and sprint alongside the charging bulls.


While the Running of the Bulls is the main attraction, there is more to the festival than just bravado and adrenaline. The streets are filled with outdoor concerts, fireworks displays, art exhibitions, and a variety of cultural events that showcase the rich heritage of the region.


Whether you choose to participate in the thrilling run, witness the bullfights, or simply soak up the festive atmosphere, the Festival of San Fermín promises an unforgettable experience filled with joy, excitement, and a deep appreciation for Spanish culture and tradition.


How to Prepare for Running

Participating in the Running of the Bulls is not for the faint of heart. It requires physical stamina, mental preparation, and an understanding of the risks involved. Here are some key steps to help you prepare for this thrilling and adrenaline-fueled experience:

  1. Assess your fitness level: Running with the bulls requires a certain level of physical fitness. Make sure you are in good health and consult with a healthcare professional before participating.
  2. Train your body: Engage in regular cardiovascular exercises, such as running or jogging, to improve your stamina and endurance. Incorporate interval training to simulate the bursts of intense running you’ll experience during the event.
  3. Practice your sprinting: The Running of the Bulls is a sprint, not a marathon. Work on improving your sprinting speed and agility by incorporating short, intense bursts of running into your training routine.
  4. Get familiar with the route: Research and study the route of the bull run beforehand. Familiarize yourself with any sharp turns, obstacles, or particularly dangerous sections. This will help you make informed decisions during the run.
  5. Wear appropriate clothing: Dress in lightweight, breathable clothing that will keep you comfortable during the run. Opt for white clothing with a red scarf, the traditional attire of the event.
  6. Invest in good running shoes: Choose a pair of running shoes that provide adequate support, traction, and cushioning. Make sure they are broken-in before the event to avoid blisters and discomfort.
  7. Learn the rules: Understand the rules and regulations of the event. Attend any informational sessions or workshops provided by the organizers to educate yourself on proper conduct and safety measures.
  8. Stay focused and alert: During the run, maintain a high level of situational awareness. Avoid distractions and keep your eyes on the bulls and the surrounding runners. Stay vigilant and be prepared to make split-second decisions.
  9. Have an exit strategy: Familiarize yourself with the various exit points along the route in case you need to quickly escape from the bulls. It’s essential to have a plan in place for your safety.
  10. Stay hydrated and nourished: Drink plenty of water before and during the run to stay hydrated. Fuel your body with a nutritious meal before the event to provide the energy needed for the intense physical activity.

Remember, participating in the Running of the Bulls carries inherent risks. It is crucial to take the necessary precautions, be respectful of the animals, and prioritize your safety above all else. With proper preparation and a clear understanding of what to expect, you can make the most of this electrifying and unforgettable experience.


The Route and Course

The Running of the Bulls takes place along a designated route in the streets of Pamplona, covering a distance of approximately 875 meters. The course begins at the Santo Domingo corral, where the bulls are released, and ends at the Plaza de Toros, the city’s bullring. This intense and adrenaline-fueled sprint lasts an average of just a few minutes, but the memories and thrill can last a lifetime.


The route is a winding and narrow path, adding to the excitement and challenge of the run. It includes iconic sections such as Santo Domingo Street, Mercaderes Street, and Estafeta Street, which are lined with cheering spectators. These streets are notoriously known for their cobblestones, which can become slippery and add an additional element of risk to the run.


Throughout the course, there are certain landmarks and focal points that runners should be aware of. For example, the “Dead Man’s Curve” on Mercaderes Street is a sharp bend that requires quick reflexes and careful navigation. It is essential to familiarize yourself with these landmarks and study the course to anticipate any potential hazards.


The timing of the run is crucial. The gates of the corral are opened at precisely 8:00 a.m., and runners must be on their guard as six powerful bulls charge through the streets behind them. It is an exhilarating and intense experience as the runners dash alongside the massive animals, trying to maintain their balance and speed while avoiding getting gored.


Safety precautions are taken along the route to ensure the well-being of both the runners and the animals. Barricades line the streets to separate the bulls from the spectators, and experienced bullherds guide the bulls from behind to keep them moving forward. Medical personnel and emergency services are also stationed along the course to attend to any injuries that may occur.


It is important to note that participating in the Running of the Bulls is not without risks. The bulls can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour and possess immense strength and power. It is crucial for runners to be aware of their surroundings, make split-second decisions, and be prepared to take evasive action if necessary.


Running alongside the bulls in Pamplona is an electrifying experience that combines adrenaline, fear, and a surge of emotions. It’s a test of physical and mental fortitude that attracts thousands of participants and spectators from all over the world. If you’re up for the challenge, be sure to study the route, familiarize yourself with its landmarks, and prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure through the streets of Pamplona.


Understanding the Rules and Risks

Participating in the Running of the Bulls comes with inherent risks and requires a thorough understanding of the rules and regulations to ensure the safety of both runners and animals. Here’s a breakdown of the key rules and risks associated with this adrenaline-pumping event:


1. The minimum age requirement: Participants must be at least 18 years old to take part in the run. This age requirement is strictly enforced to ensure participants have the maturity and physical ability to handle the challenges of the event.


2. Running in the right direction: It is essential to run in the same direction as the bulls, never against them. Running against the flow can cause confusion and increase the risk of accidents. Sticking to the designated route and following the lead of the bullherds is crucial.


3. No intoxication or alcohol consumption: It is strictly forbidden to participate in the run under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This rule is enforced for the safety of all participants and to prevent impaired decision-making during the intense and fast-paced event.


4. Dress code: Participants are expected to wear the traditional attire of a white shirt and pants, along with a red scarf tied around the waist or neck. This dress code not only pays homage to the festival’s traditions but also helps with visibility and identification during the run.


5. No provocation or harassment: It is strictly prohibited to provoke or harass the bulls in any way. Runners should respect the animals and maintain a safe distance from them. Touching or interfering with the bulls can lead to injury or endanger others.


6. Risks of falls and trampling: The narrow streets, uneven surfaces, and fast-moving crowds increase the risk of falls and trampling during the run. It is crucial for participants to stay alert, maintain their balance, and be aware of the people around them to avoid potential stampedes.


7. Potential injuries from the bulls: Bulls are large, powerful animals that can cause serious injuries if they make contact with runners. Gored injuries, fractures, and bruises are possible risks associated with running alongside the bulls. It is important to be cautious and make quick decisions to avoid potential harm.


8. Monitoring and intervention: The event organizers closely monitor the run and have the authority to intervene and stop the event if they deem it necessary for safety reasons. It is crucial for participants to follow any instructions given by officials and cooperate in ensuring a safe experience for everyone involved.


It is important for anyone considering participating in the Running of the Bulls to be fully aware of the risks involved and to make an informed decision based on their capabilities and personal circumstances. Taking precautions, understanding the rules, and respecting the animals can contribute to a safer and more enjoyable experience for all.


Insider Tips for a Successful Run

If you’re planning to participate in the Running of the Bulls, these insider tips will help you navigate the experience and increase your chances of a successful and memorable run:


1. Arrive early: Make sure to arrive at the starting point early to secure a good position. The streets can get crowded, and being closer to the front will give you a better chance to have a clear path ahead.


2. Study the route: Familiarize yourself with the route beforehand to anticipate any potential hazards or challenging sections. Knowing the course will help you make strategic decisions during the run.


3. Dress appropriately: Wear lightweight and comfortable clothing that allows for freedom of movement. Opt for running shoes with good traction and support to navigate the slippery streets safely.


4. Stay focused and aware: Maintain a high level of situational awareness during the run. Keep your eyes on the bulls, the runners around you, and any potential obstacles. Avoid distractions and stay focused on the task at hand.


5. Find a running partner: Running with a partner can offer support and provide an extra set of eyes. Having someone by your side can help you make decisions and navigate the course together.


6. Position yourself wisely: Choose a starting point that aligns with your experience and comfort level. If you’re a first-time participant, it’s advisable to position yourself closer to the sides rather than the center of the route.


7. Pace yourself: Running with the bulls is an intense sprint, but it’s crucial to pace yourself and conserve energy. Avoid starting too fast and maintain a steady pace that allows you to react quickly if needed.


8. Use the barricades: Make use of the barricades along the route to create a buffer between you and the bulls. They provide some level of protection and can be used as a barrier in case you need to avoid an oncoming bull.


9. Have an exit plan: Identify the exit points along the route and plan an escape route in case you need to quickly exit the run. Knowing the nearest safe areas can provide peace of mind and increase your safety.


10. Enjoy the moment: While safety is paramount, don’t forget to savor the experience. The Running of the Bulls is a unique and exhilarating event that should be enjoyed. Feel the excitement, embrace the adrenaline, and create lasting memories of this unforgettable adventure.


Remember, participating in the Running of the Bulls carries inherent risks. It is important to prioritize your safety and make informed decisions during the run. With proper preparation, situational awareness, and a respectful approach to the event, you can increase your chances of having a successful and memorable experience in Pamplona.


Experiencing the Festivities

The Running of the Bulls is just one captivating element of the larger Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere and take full advantage of the festivities with these tips for an unforgettable experience:


1. Explore the city: Pamplona is a historic and charming city with a rich cultural heritage. Take the time to explore its winding streets, visit its iconic landmarks, and soak up the local ambiance. Discover the beautiful cathedrals, picturesque squares, and vibrant markets that showcase the essence of the region.


2. Dive into the local cuisine: Indulge in the mouth-watering flavors of Navarre cuisine. From the world-famous pintxos (Basque-style tapas) to regional specialties such as lamb stew or piquillo peppers, Pamplona offers a gastronomic experience that should not be missed. Pair your meals with a glass of local wine or cider for the complete culinary journey.


3. Attend traditional events: The Festival of San Fermín offers a wide array of cultural events and performances. From traditional music and dance showcases to bullfighting exhibitions, there are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the local traditions. Check the festival schedule and plan your itinerary accordingly.


4. Join in the street parties: Pamplona truly comes alive during San Fermín. Join the revelers in the lively street parties, known as peñas, where locals and visitors come together to celebrate. Enjoy live music, dancing, and the timeless tradition of sharing drinks and laughter in the streets.


5. Experience the fireworks: The festival’s nightly fireworks displays are a spectacle not to be missed. Head to the Citadel Park or other designated locations to witness the dazzling pyrotechnic shows that light up the night sky. The explosions of color and sound add an extra layer of magic to the festive atmosphere.


6. Engage with the locals: The people of Pamplona are known for their warmth and hospitality. Strike up conversations with the locals, learn about their customs, and embrace the sense of camaraderie that permeates the city during the festival. Their insights and stories will enrich your overall experience.


7. Immerse yourself in traditional attire: Embrace the festival’s dress code by donning the traditional white outfit adorned with a red scarf. By joining others in this style of dress, you’ll feel a greater sense of camaraderie and become an active participant in the festivities.


8. Pace yourself: The Festival of San Fermín is a week-long celebration, so remember to pace yourself. Take breaks, rest, and recharge when needed to ensure you have the energy to fully enjoy each day’s events.


9. Capture the memories: Bring a camera or smartphone to document your experiences and capture the vibrant moments of the festival. From the excitement of the bull runs to the joyous street parties, these memories will be cherished for years to come.


10. Respect the traditions: Finally, it is essential to respect and honor the traditions of San Fermín. Follow the rules, treat the locals and animals with respect, and be mindful of the cultural significance of the festival. By doing so, you will not only have an incredible experience but also contribute to the preservation of this centuries-old celebration.


Immerse yourself fully in the Festival of San Fermín, let the spirit of the event engulf you, and create lifelong memories of this exciting and culturally rich experience in the heart of Pamplona.



The Running of the Bulls and the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain, is an exhilarating and culturally significant event that captures the hearts of participants and spectators alike. It is a celebration of bravery, tradition, and the indomitable spirit of the people of Pamplona.


From its humble origins as a means of transporting bulls to the bullring, the Running of the Bulls has transformed into a global phenomenon that attracts adventurers from around the world. The intense sprint alongside the thundering bulls, the lively street parties, the captivating music and dance performances, and the mouthwatering local cuisine all combine to create an unforgettable experience.


However, it is crucial to approach the event with caution and respect. Understanding the rules, preparing physically and mentally, and being aware of the risks involved are fundamental to ensuring a safe and successful experience. It is a challenge that calls for bravery, agility, and a deep appreciation for the traditions and rituals of this historic festival.


Beyond the adrenaline-fueled run, the Festival of San Fermín offers a wealth of cultural experiences. Exploring the charming streets of Pamplona, indulging in the local culinary delights, engaging with the welcoming locals, and participating in traditional events like bullfights and fireworks displays all add to the tapestry of memories.


The Festival of San Fermín is more than just a single event; it is a celebration of life, camaraderie, and the spirit of the Basque culture. It is a time to honor traditions, create bonds, and revel in the vibrancy of Pamplona. Whether you choose to stand among the brave runners or witness the spectacle from the sidelines, this extraordinary festival promises to leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul.


So, embrace the excitement, respect the traditions, and immerse yourself in the spirit of the Running of the Bulls and the Festival of San Fermín. Allow yourself to be swept up in the fervor and create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.