Living la vida loca in Pamplona
July 7, 1999
PAMPLONA, Spain (CNN) -- Could this be the crazy life?
Hundreds ran hard and as fast as they could Wednesday morning, sprinting 825 meters (1/2 mile) down the narrow cobblestone streets of the ancient Basque capital in under three minutes. Helping motivate them were several tons of hooves and horns attached to 12 lean, muscled bulls and steers that followed close behind.
And the runners will do it again every morning for eight more days.
Pamplona's "encierro" -- the "running of the bulls" -- dates back centuries, from the 16th century, when the run was nothing more than a herding of the animals to the city's bull ring.
The bulls are still heading for the Plaza de Toros, but the tone of the herding changed a bit after about a hundred years. That's when a handful of onlookers dashed into the streets in front of the snorting animals, beginning the rise of the Festival of San Fermin -- Pamplona's patron saint -- to the top of the charts of Spanish festivals.
It took a few more centuries for the event to grow into the nine-day fiesta of food and drink that attracts over a million visitors annually. Most of those people don't actually take the risk of running. Instead they enjoy the party that goes on day and night.
Partying along side them are those brave -- or crazy -- enough to make the dash from corral to bull ring.
Failure can be painful. Gorings and tramplings are plentiful, but remarkably only 13 people have been killed by the stampeding bulls since 1926, when Ernest Hemingway made the running of the bulls world famous in his novel "The Sun Also Rises." Attendance at the annual festival skyrocketed after the book's publication.
Correspondent Al Goodman contributed to this report.
One gored in Pamplona bull run
History of the running of the bulls
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