END OF STORY

Perhaps one of the reasons why they party so hard during Pamplona's San Fermn fiesta is that they have on hand one of the best cures for a hangover ever invented. It's called el encierro, or "the running of the bulls". Every morning on the stroke of eight, six fighting bulls are let out of a corral and allowed to gallop through the narrow streets of the old town as far as the bullring, and anyone who feels like it can go down onto the course and run with them.

It can be hazardous. The bulls are semi-wild, their horns have sharp points. Sometimes there are serious injuries. These are carefully measured and catalogued in the local paper the following day. One of the most common injuries inflicted by the bulls is your cornada en el recto. (Cornada means horn injury.)

During the first day's encierro, which I missed, a Bilbao man received a cornada en el recto measuring 14cm in diameter. Beside the report was a photograph of him wearing pyjamas and giving it the thumbs up from his hospital bed.

And of course every so often somebody - usually an American tourist - gets killed.

My guide book said that if I was foolish enough to run with the bulls, I should at least walk the course beforehand to familiarise myself with it. But since arriving in Pamplona, my life was suddenly far too exciting and confusing to think about matters connected with health and safety. "If I die, I die," I can remember thinking as I danced in a bar.

At ten to eight the following morning, feeling dreadful, I was admitted onto the course for my first encierro. "If I die, I die" was my motto still, though now it was a result of crapulous depression rather than exuberance. I took up a starting position at the top of a cobbled street. The entire street was packed with would-be runners, young men mostly, the majority of them dressed in the traditional red and white of San Fermn. Spectators lined the tall wooden barriers on either side. Some middle- aged men hung precariously from the iron grilles covering the medieval windows of a seminary opposite. High above us balconies were crammed with more spectators and television camera crews. The faces of those looking down from the highest balconies were lit by early-morning sunlight.

On the stroke of eight o'clock - bang! - a maroon was let off. I nearly had a heart attack. A great cheer went up from the crowd. The gates are open! The bulls are coming out!

Then bang! another maroon exploded. They're out! They're all out and running! I stood on tiptoe and looked down the street towards the corral. I couldn't see the bulls but I could see a human tidal wave coming rapidly up the hill towards me. I thought I had a few seconds to prepare myself, but the bulls were going much faster than I imagined they would and before I knew what was happening, everyone around me had had it on their toes. And when I looked again there were six black bulls and two big brown and white steers galloping straight towards me along a medieval street barely wide enough for a moped.

In about one-tenth of a second I went from self-pitying, crapulous invalid to a serious contender for the 100m dash at the next Olympic games. It was the biggest comeback since Lazarus. I was going full pelt: my knees were coming up to my chest and my eyeballs were nearly popping out. I was going so fast I didn't have time to look behind me. But I knew that the odds in favour of my receiving a cornada en el recto, and being photographed in my pyjamas for the local paper, were shortening dramatically.

When I felt close to collapse, I dodged aside and slumped against a wall with my hands on my knees. Five of the bulls galloped on by. A sixth lost its footing on the smooth cobbles, went down and came sliding towards me on its back. As it slid towards me it was looking over its belly at me. It was looking me right in the eye. I stepped aside as it hit the wall, then I watched it scrabble back on its feet and set off in pursuit of the others.

"Holy shit!" said an aghast American tourist who also had taken refuge against the wall.

But I reckon I saw fear in that bull's eye.

Suggested Topics
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

    £65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

    Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

    Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

    £60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

    JavaScript Developer (C++ / C# / HTML, Java Angular.js) London

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A world leading business intellig...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition