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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
films
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
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

    Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

    £40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

    Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

    £30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

    Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

    £35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

    Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

    £60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game