PAMPLONA (Spanish city of Pamplona) -- Thursday saw the first bull run in three-years at the San Fermin festival. Although no one was gored by the bulls, several runners suffered hard falls and knocks as thousands revelled in one of Europe's most renowned traditional events.
Six bulls, accompanied by six tame horses, charged through Pamplona's streets for approximately two minutes and 35 seconds. They did not cause any carnage to the thousands of participants and observers who were cramming the course.
Many runners were trampled, pushed and shoved onto the cobblestone sidewalk. Two men were smashed in the head by an animal's horn, but neither was hurt.
Six people were admitted to the Pamplona hospital for treatment. A 30-year-old American man fractured his left arm, and a Spanish girl aged 16 lost part of her finger in the bullring. This is where runners piled up at the entrance. Fourteen- and 45-year-old Spanish men were also injured.
Ryan Ward, a San Diego tourist, stated that the risk of running alongside the bulls was worth it.
"I feel like crying. Running with my'misamigos (my friends) brings out so many emotions in me. After finishing the bull run, he stated that he didn't know where he was.
Ward said, "It felt like it took two seconds. It was probably a minute when the bulls ran by me. But it felt so quick, like it was a blink, and it was gone." It was amazing, unbelievable, and one of my best experiences.
Thursday's bull run in the early morning was the first of eight. The remainder of the day is usually filled with drinking, eating, and cultural events.
The 2019 festival saw eight people gored, the most since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Since 1910, 16 people have been killed in bull runs. The most recent was in 2009.
Professional bullfighters kill the bulls that run every morning. Animal rights activists have opposed the killing of bulls, but bullfights remain popular in Spain and are an integral part the San Fermin festival.
Due to the pandemic, Pamplona's most popular celebrations were cancelled in 2020 and 2021.
Spain's robust vaccination program has helped life return to normal. However, a recent increase in cases has led Pamplona authorities recommend that face masks be used when necessary. Masks were not common among the crowds thronging the square in the city for the official kickoff party or the first bull run.
Many thousands of people, including women, take part in the "encierros," or bull races. They try to avoid the huge bulls and oxen who thunder down the narrow cobblestone streets of Pamplona’s old quarter.
To prevent bulls from sliding on tight corners, the course is 875m (956 yards). The run is usually completed in three minutes.
Local bull runners are mostly experts and sprint at top speed just in front of the bullhorns before fading at the last second. The uninitiated, which includes most foreigners as well, are able to run at full speed, but often end up in piles with their fellow runners.
Nearly everyone in Pamplona wears the traditional white shirt, pants and neckerchief to celebrate the festival.
Joseph Wilson reported from Barcelona.