Category Archives: Pamplona 2012 – Run with the Bulls

Tips, news and resources for running the bulls in Pamplona in 2012 – a real-world exercise in building a coalition of people to do something not in their best interests.

Changing my mind to avoid changing my shirt

Back in June, I started running again after a layoFFFF of many years.

My clever use of a visual representation of the Doppler Effect may have left you with the impression that I run like the wind, despite having only picked back up in June.  That would be a misapprehension. 

I’m what’s known in running circles as a Clydesdale, both because of my size and lack of whippet speed (the term for lean, fast runners, by which I mean Kenyans).  All I can say is:  no one has ever cried over a Christmas commercial of whippets pulling a wagon through freshly fallen snow nor laughed at one in which they kick a field goal.

‘Nuff said.

Health scare … mid-life crisis … nostalgia for the athletic stud I once was (at least in anecdote); none of these factored into my decision.  Instead, running again was the price of admission to something I’ve always wanted to do – run the bulls in Pamplona.  That’s right. I’m a clichéd Hemingway wannabe who wants to dash into the ruedo in my white linen shirt and pants, my red sash blowing in the wind behind me. However, in the 34 years of life with Linda, I could never get her to see the wisdom and allure of this … until in a moment of weakness and drink, she said: “Sure, if you run a half-marathon first.”

She may have been laughing up her sleeve when she said it, but that stopped when she sobered up.  And to our mutual surprise, five months later I finished the Waddell & Reed Half Marathon here in Kansas City. Didn’t run it in the fasted time ever, but I did run my first half marathon fifteen minutes faster than NBC Chief Meteorologist did, to which I say: “Suck it, Al Roker.”

During that time, I also was busy researching and planning my 2012 Pamplona bull-running trip.  And I mean planning.  Working with engineers over the past five years has really stoked my love of Excel spreadsheets, critical paths and key dependencies. I had pulled together an action plan for getting there and, more importantly, how to sprint the 903 yards to the ring and survive. I knew everything. How they had put down non-skid surfaces at Dead Man’s Turn so that the bulls wouldn’t slip and could keep accelerating after the Euro-trash that deserved what they got. How they keep goring stats so you can schedule your run on a day less likely to end in injury or death.  And mucho, mucho mas!

But here’s the thing.  The more I researched, the more Pamplona videos I watched, the more I learned an important lesson about myself (and not the one people kept trying to teach me, that bulls can kill you). What I learned was that I’m just too damn old to stand in a Plaza with 10,000 youth of the world projectile vomiting from chugging cheap two-liter bottles of sangria.

I’m happy to risk getting gored.  But I don’t want to be vomited on. And I don’t want to be jammed, jostled and generally pawed by thousands of sweaty, pukey twenty somethings. (Hey, I veered away from the High Five Squad at mile six of the half marathon because I didn’t want to touch hands that had patty-fingered 11,000 other runners.)  So I’m not going to Pamplona. 

But at least I’m still running.  So join me for the next outing – the Dec. 4 Great Santa 5K –  No bull. No sangria. No puking up.

New and improved view of running the bulls in Pamplona

I thought this video was one of the most helpful ones I’ve watched recently in figuring out the mechanics of running with the bulls, best days and best ways:

40 days and 40 nights

It’s only 40 days until I run my first official half-marathon – Waddell & Reed on Oct. 15. But I ran the 13-mile distance for the first time unofficially yesterday. 

I jumped ahead of my training schedule, prompted by driving the W&R route last week to get a sense of it.  I was left anxious by the experience and, rather than stew about it, I just went ahead and jumped from 11 miles to 13 miles distance to get it out of the way.  

It certainly makes me feel a little more confident that I can finish the W&R in October, bringing me one step closer to the colorful chaos that is the running with the bulls in Pamplona (see earlier posts for the tortured explanations of how they’re linked).  


Ignore the bull behind you and think of Spain

How do you sell others, let alone yourself, on going to Pamplona?

One approach is to focus on the things that are easier to understand – the beauty of Spain, for example, charm of Pamplona itself or the vibrant, colorful experience of the Festival of San Fermin.

The cost of emotionally investing in the fun and pageantry is so much lower than investing in the possibility of death or dismemberment, and it makes it so much likelier that you, friends and family may actually be in Pamplona in July 2012.

Running with the bulls in Pamplona

I could give you a complicated explanation, undoubtedly Hemingway-tinged (apparently I’m not the only one), but running with the bulls in Pamplona is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teen. 

Long-blocked in this pursuit by a smart, loving, long-suffering spouse, I didn’t think it was something that would ever happen.  But then in a misguided moment of weakness, Linda said “Sure, if you ever run a half marathon.”

Big mistake. I’ve transformed a sedentary streak of some years into a health and running kick that culminated today in registering to run in the Waddell & Reed Half Marathon on Oct. 15.

So the official one-year countdown to Pamplona has begun. 

And based on the reactions I’ve gotten from people with whom I’ve discussed this picaresque dream, I thought it might also serve as a small, real-world experiment in coalition building.

So I’m going to see how many people I may persuade to stand in a balcony above the stampeding hordes of bulls, oxen and terrified dreamers – or even join me below in the dash to the corrida. We’ll see how well the info, musings and writings I post here help spark a coalition of people focused on doing something that offers an unknowable mix of risk and reward – the core task of any coalitionist.