PAMPLONA – The thundering of hooves echoed on the streets of Pamplona Wednesday as Spain’s iconic Sanfermines festival entered its fifth day, a speedy race that left three people hospitalized after encounters with the beasts, though none were gored.
The fighting bulls from the Núñez del Cuvillo ranch finished the 875-meter (just over half a mile) course in 2 minutes, 50 seconds in a race that saw the herd begin to dissolve amid the around 2,000 “mozos,” as the thrill-seeking runners are called, that flock to the city to take part in the world-famous fiesta.
The race looked set to be dangerous from the start, as the moment the pen gates opened, one black beast emerged with its horns down and aimed at the people that lined the edge of the course, looking for something, or someone, to skewer.
But nobody caught its eyes and eventually it was content to just charge down the course at the front of the herd, though it was temporarily delayed when it crashed into a group of participants, which it trampled over in its determination to keep on running.
The streets of Pamplona were once again so flocked with people that most were unable to make their way down the cobblestone roads without falling over one another.
One group of mozos was hit with the full weight of several bulls that ran into them after they decided to huddle together on the most dangerous part of the course: a sharp right turn where beasts always skid into the barriers, the loud thuds echoing among the screams of revelers.
Among them was a 38-year-old Spaniard from the eastern town of Onda who suffered trauma to a knee and multiple bruising, which required he be transferred to the hospital.
The masses of people who had tripped and fallen to the ground made several bulls stumble, including one huge beast that fell on its side and struggled to get back up, requiring the help of several experienced runners to pull on its tail until it was steadily on its feet and ready to charge toward the end of the course.
This final stretch of the race is where two runners suffered injuries that left them hospitalized: a 25-year-old Navarre region local who took a blow to a shoulder and a 27-year-old from the outskirts of the coastal city of Valencia, who suffered from head injuries.
The race was stretched for 30 seconds as the last bull took its time making it to the ring after a fall, then decided to run around and chase people a bit before disappearing into a pen.
It was perhaps taking stock of the place where on Wednesday afternoon it was due to take part in a bloody battle for its life against a matador, as revelry continues around them in a city invaded by the Bacchanalian fiesta.