Pamplona is located 253 miles north of Madrid in Spain and 57 miles southeast of San Sebastián. The city is in the province of Navarre and the population is normally about 196,000. However, in July during the San Fermin festival made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his novel The Sun Also Rises, the population surges to more than 1 million. The Festival of San Fermin begins at noon on July 6 and ends at midnight on July 14. Each day at 8 am, the running of the bulls (6 bulls and 6 steers) occurs in the streets of Pamplona moving the bulls from the outskirts to the plaza de toros (bullring) for the corrida (roughly translated to bullfights) held later in the day.
I just read a captivating book called Mozos: A Decade Running with the Bulls of Spain by Bill Hillmann. The author is the American gored during the fiesta in 2014 and who successfully returned to run again in 2015. Hillmann wrote his first book, The Old Neighborhood, about growing up in Chicago, published in 2013 by Curbside Publishing. I started paying attention to what happens each year in Pamplona from reading about EMH’s life around the same time Hillmann was beginning to visit Pamplona during Fiesta each year. In Mozos, Hillmann explains how running with the bulls has enriched his life tremendously and how his focus on this yearly event has helped him deal with stress, mental illness, and substance abuse. The love and camaraderie Hillmann shares with fellow longtime runners, Spanish and those from other countries, is also a reason he returns to Pamplona each July. Once I started reading Mozos, I could not stop and had to force myself to break away every few hours. Hillmann writes in a very fast-paced manner, much like his engaging personality.
If you want to learn about the Sanfermines festival and how serious the experienced and longtime runners revere the tradition, I highly recommend Mozos. The book presents the history and traditions of the festival, as well as pertinent advice to new runners and how to navigate the runs, better than any other book I have seen.
Following is an interview with Hillman after his 2014 goring and return in 2015.