The real fight of Pamplona isn’t in the street with the bulls or in the arena with the matadors, instead, it’s along the route amongst the spectators.
I had been told ahead of time that if you wanted to get a spot along the route to see the 8 am Bull Run, you should get there no later than 2 am. Well, at about 4 am the morning of the first run, I finally started my trek to find a spot to sit. About a quarter of the way down the street, I found a 2″ wide railing behind the police barricade to grab a spot. I climbed on up and for the first hour could move freely between sitting and standing. By 5, the entire stretch of fence was filled with spectators. In addition to the rail I was on, people naively started to sit on the front rail in front of the police barricade right along the route. I don’t know if they didn’t realize they couldn’t sit there or if that was as close as they could muster to running with the bulls, but their hopes would be dashed in 2 hours.
First what amazed me, was how guys weren’t even bashful in wanting to take pictures of girls. The first two slats of the fence were a few other girls and myself. Guys would come up right in front and behind us and take pictures (granted, not really of me, but of the blondes right next to me). The girls were getting annoyed and kept trying their best to get the guys away, but to no avail. The police just ignored our pleas for help.
I would say that about 6 the crowd behind us started to grow a few people deep. People also started standing in between the rails where it was OBVIOUS the police would be standing (I’m starting to believe people are just stupid and not naive by this point). I was unfortunate enough to get a group of drunk Spaniard guys directly behind they me. The harassment started at about 5:30 and continued after the run was over. They weren’t shy in letting us know that they wanted our seats. Even if one of us stood up on the fence to stretch, they would jump up and try to block our seat to make it their own. I stood up once and one of the Spaniards jumped up, put his arms on my seat thinking that would prevent me from sitting down. God, what an idiot. I sat right on him and pushed my hands down on one of his. He yelled and got pissed off at me and was surprised that his little action didn’t work. I just ignored him and opted not to stretch again.
The girls next to me had it even worse by these guys. They were sitting w/their backpacks around their front and were sitting sideways on the fence and facing each other. Even if they didn’t have their bags in front of them or were sitting forward, there still wouldn’t have been room for one more person. We were cramped like sardines. That didn’t stop the guys from complaining non-stop, trying to get the police involved and increasing their harassment as time went on. I tried to ignore them as much as possible, but these girls would not sit for it. They would spew insults, slap prying hands away and kick their feet out w/the hopes of hitting someone. I give them props for it, the most I could do was yell at them in English, “What is your problem! Stop being such asses, it’s not our problem that we got here early enough to get a seat and you didn’t. Seriously, what men spend their days harassing women, if you were real men you’d be running.” I will toot my own horn and proudly say that elicited cheers from everyone around me and it only managed to shut these guys up for a couple of minutes before their threats turned to, “We will push you off when the run starts and we will continue to push you after it ends.” By that point the police were involved and trying their best to keep the guys at bay, but it really didn’t help that the cop doing most of the work was female.
At 7 everyone was removed from the front railing and from in between the barricades. The crowd behind us was 5 deep and were pushing amongst themselves and ultimately us to get a chance to see anything. When the run started at 8 we had to start holding our positions down, knowing that if we got pushed off the cops wouldn’t give us a second thought and would push us out of the way under the fence. The guys did their best to push, one of the Spaniards did nothing the entire run but push hard on my back. I took a page from the girl next to me and just started kicking him through the fence. I hope he can no longer have kids.
The crowd behind us tried in vain, but no one was pushed down from their seat. It wouldn’t have mattered anyways, b/c we were barely able to see, as the rail in front of us turned into a safe-haven for the runners trying to jump out of the bulls path. I did get video of the first run, did see the bulls go flying past and got a good workout in the 30 seconds that was the run. I doubt the Spaniards saw a thing since they were focusing on pushing us and not trying to watch through the slats in the rail.
The morning of the second run I started out at 4 am again and got a similar seat on a rail in the Plaza Consortitorium which was a much better view than the first day. We had prime seats to see the bulls come from around a corner, down the street and then through the plaza. I warned everyone on the rail of what to expect and Day Two turned into a reprieve of Day One. I was fortunate to have a good crew of girls right behind me, but they got a brunt of the pushing from the massive crowd behind them. These seats were in a plaza that was barricaded to make a street through, so there were hundreds upon hundreds of people behind us. One drunk pushed his way through the crowd and up behind me and tried to push me off after throwing the Australian girl behind me down. The cops just dragged him under the fence and then shoved him back into the crowd further away.
All in all, Day Two was easier to handle than Day One, but I knew that I was not going to watch the third run after sitting on a 2″ wide fence for 8 hours over two days. I had no energy left to deal with the drunks, the obnoxious, the inconsiderate or the stupid just to see 30 seconds of running and bulls and I’ll be honest, my ass was KILLING me. Nope, I would rather take my chance with the bulls, because that had to be easier than dealing with the crowd.
And you know what? It was.