On most days, in most places, it would be considered unbridled lunacy. But on a crowded, narrow road in Pamplona, Spain, it is heroic audacity.
On most days, in most places, it would be considered unbridled lunacy.
But on a crowded, narrow road in Pamplona, Spain, it is heroic audacity.
Despite the nobility of the tradition, inserting yourself between an angry animal that weighs half a ton and his destination with nothing to defend yourself except fleetness of foot and a rolled up newspaper, is hard to justify as rational.
Monday began this year's running of the bulls. A baker's dozen of the asinine athletes were seriously injured on the first of nine days of activities.
Like many traditions, the running of the bulls began with a mundane task that developed into a bigger, stranger event.
For centuries, Spanish bull ranchers brought bulls to the stadium for bullfights. As the bulls were brought in to meet their final destiny, many young daredevils began to dart in and out of the taurine trail. This practice grew to a formal activity in 1591.
It was made famous in the western world by Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises - in which the great American author graphically glorifies the event.
Now, the specious sprint draws hundreds of young men from across the world - each of them trying to prove his manhood or reach an adrenaline high which is unattainable in other venues.
This herd mentality seems to be a progression of peer pressure that detours the desires of almost every teenager.
What makes women bare their breasts each February in New Orleans with the only reward being a string of cheap plastic beads? What makes crowds of otherwise law-abiding people pillage and destroy their own city after the hometown team wins a sports championship?
The same feeling of belonging and being a part of a momentous occasion lures people to risk their lives participating in what would be deemed irrational during any other nine days of the year.
And when the final bead is caught, the final car is flipped and the final bull is led to the arena, all that remains is a good story to tell at the dinner table.
Is it worth it? Ask them when the fire of passion is dim and they'll say “no.”
Catch them in the moment and they may tell a different story.