THOUSANDS brave bulls in run made famous by Hemingway; six people badly gored - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

THOUSANDS brave bulls in run made famous by Hemingway; six people badly gored

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PAMPLONA, Spain (AP) _ Racing through medieval streets with six three-quarter-ton bulls at your back is seldom dull, but with rain-slickened cobblestones and a sozzled weekend crowd, Saturday was something else.

``That's about as interesting as it gets,'' said Tom Gowen, 55, chuckling at his understatement, and he has been running for 29 years. He ended up on the ground, dodging the broken horn of a giant bull named Lunatic.

Six people were badly gored, including Jennifer Smith, a 29-year-old tourist from New Jersey, who took a horn in her thigh. Others were treated at first aid stations along the 800-yard run to the bull ring.

Although Ernest Hemingway popularized Pamplona's running of the bulls in 1927, the San Fermin fiesta is 400 years old. As in his fictional account in ``The Sun Also Rises,'' there was blood in the streets.

``It couldn't have gotten worse,'' said Gowen, from Seaville, N.J., ``because of the way the bulls got separated in the curve.'' He knocked back a cognac with milk to steady his nerves.

Since the 1920s, bulls have killed 13 runners. The last was in 1995, a young American who fell down and then stood up instead of rolling into a ball. This time, even seasoned runners got caught out.

The week-long fiesta opened Friday at noon under a downpour of rain and cheap champagne. People by the tens of thousands danced all night in jammed-solid bars and on the chilly streets.

By 6 a.m., unsteady spectators leaned against the heavy wooden barriers workmen erected from the edge of town to the bullring, passing along narrow streets and by the ornate old Town Hall.

Uncounted thousands positioned themselves for the first of seven daily runs, cheering as they waited. At 8 a.m., when a rocket announced bulls would join them within a minute or two, most cleared out fast.

As always, a hardcore of veteran runners and foolhardy amateurs hung in for the scary part.

Trouble came at the notorious curve where bulls barrel full speed from the Town Hall plaza to a right turn up a narrow street called Estafeta which leads to the bull ring.

Slipping and sliding on the wet stones, confused by noise from the huge weekend crowd, and clearly in a lousy mood, the bulls did what seldom happens at that point: they headed off in different directions.

``I've never seen anything like that,'' said John Kimmich, a teacher and photographer from Iowa City, who has not missed a San Fermin since 1988. ``Usually they bounce off the barrier but then keep on going.''

Runners who fell tried to stay low so bulls would mistake them for, say, a pile of rags and jump over them. But with enraged and disoriented bulls coming from everywhere, that old trick didn't work.

After the run, shaken old pros gathered at their usual cafe tables to relive the experience. Many are close friends, whatever their nationality, drawn together over the years by a singular passion.

Gowen laughed that he and his running buddy had two firm rules, both of which they broke Saturday. Normally, they don't run when it is wet, and they don't run with weekend crowds.

He was also concerned that the bulls were from the Torrestrella ranch, with a long reputation for being nasty to runners.

``I suppose it's funny that a bull named Lunatic would be the one to nearly end my career,'' he said. ``I am very, very frightened as we speak, but I don't have to do it again until tomorrow.''
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