Mikel Ciáurriz

Bill Hillmann apologizes for blaming two British runners for his goring

On the 9th of July, American-writer Bill Hillmann was gored during the Running of the Bulls with the Victoriano del Río bull-ranch. More particularly, he received the goring from a loose bull by the name of “Brevito” which had been left behind on the course by the rest of the pack. The incident had quite a lot of media impact, not just for being one of just two gorings which took place that day but also because this writer is the author of a book about the Pamplona Running of the Bulls entitled: “How to survive the Pamplona Running of the Bulls”.

Yesterday, Hillmann himself, who regularly writes Facebook posts, wrote about the goring incident of the 9th of July and about the Sanfermin Running of the Bulls in general, and managed to raise some controversy among his followers with his publication. In his article, he blames two British runners, who were wearing similar blue T-shirts, of being the cause of his suffering the goring because they blocked his way and forced him to fall to the ground, at the final stretch leading into the bullring, where he was then gored by the bull. “They got in my way when I was leading the bull towards the entrance to the bullring and one of them pushed me hard so that I fell on my back to the ground”.

One of his readers, however, subsequently accused him of being malicious in his accusation and took a different view of the whole matter. This comment raised a lot of controversy and provoked several different comments from readers and even from Hillmann himself, which only served to stir things up even more.

In view of the growing controversy, the American writer wished to clarify himself by stating that it was not his intention to attack these runners, but simply to point out that they were clearly rookie runners who, on seeing the bull coming up close behind them, panicked and reacted from an instinct of survival. And he went on to say that he did not wish to discuss the incident any further until he felt more objective about the whole issue: “I admit that I went too far in attacking them. I shouldn’t have done it. I am not going to discuss the question any further until I feel more calmed down and objective about the whole thing.”

A few hours later and feeling more objective about the whole thing, Bill Hillmann wrote a new post up and made a clear apology and closed the controversy by stating: “I had earlier written out of anger and indignation. I regret that. I do not blame anybody in any way for what happened to me. During the Running of the Bulls there are always moments of panic and high tension and nobody is to blame for that”.

To learn the full story, you can follow it up at Bill Hillmann’s Facebook.

(English) SLEEPERS, by Bill Hillman

Image: Miguel Goñi

by Tim Pinks

The chap in the superb photo below, for those who don’t know him, is Bill Hillman, and he wrote something about one of this years runs that I thought was just so good it needed to be seen.

11th Jobenero - Copy

As those of you who read this more or less monthly series of articles knows, I almost always prefer to write about anything else but myself. But this month I’m going even further, as not only am I not going to blow my own trumpet, but I’m going to use this space to blow someone else’s. The remarkable piece below isn’t even written by me, but by the above mentioned Bill Hillman, one of the “new” generation of bull runners, and a very good one at that.

Although there is slightly more to the article than that, because he was actually running that morning as the dramatic events unfolded, and he gives what for me is a real skin-tingling account of what he experienced. I think it’s an excellent piece, and parts of it, as mentioned, for personal reasons which I wont go into here, left me shaking. As I say, Bill wrote the article, but I’ve furnished it with the pictures. Hope you don’t mind, Bill. Take it away, maestro.

By Bill Hillman

There’ve been many deadly human pile ups in the history of Pamplona ’s bull run. This year a pile up hospitalized 23 people and left one battling for his life.

On July 13th it was the Fuente Ymbro bulls’ turn to run the streets of Pamplona and I was happy because they were noble and majestic and I always ran well with them. I left early from my starting position at the last section of the course like usual and was striding cleanly in the center of the street with good vision of the herd as they approached. Three galloping black bulls lined up in a loose string with Aitor, the best young Spanish mozo running the lead animal. Aitor strode in his tall, long gate in front of the snout of the muscular animal?man and beast in perfect synch. Aitor’s white hoodie with black and red stripes fluttered as I matched their pace and approached, shoulder-to-shoulder with him.

As I cruised beside Aitor a woman tripped in front of him. He started to fall and I surged in and swung my paper behind his back and swatted the bull’s horns to attract him away from goring Aitor. Aitor dropped to the stones and I led the bull and ran in front of his horns. We merged into one speeding force before the tunnel into the arena.

As I stepped into the tunnel a small pile-up of five people tripped me. I tried to leap it and fell flat on my belly. The bull ambled on. I crawled to the two-foot tall opening that lines the bottom of the tunnel and slipped inside. The room is large and empty.

Suddenly screams volleyed in from the tunnel and a powerful roar of horror exploded into the dark room. Dozens of runners flew in through the low opening. I reached down and pulled them in. Suddenly Aitor’s striped sleeve appeared and I yanked him through and to his feet. The inflow of bodies stopped but the dread continued. I got down on my belly to look out. A regal white bull sat at the opening of the tunnel in quiet meditation. At the entrance to the ring a horrific mountain of people jams the path into the arena. Then the white bull climbed to his hooves. The runners in the tunnel scrambled.

I decided I should go out and try to help if I could. The white bull gets up and trots into the pile. I crawled back out into the tunnel and finally clearly saw the hundred or so white and red clad people crushed in the opening to the arena. Twelve gigantic bovine are stacked atop them in the center. The white bull turned and I panicked and nearly jumped out through the slot on the other side of the tunnel, but he didn’t attack. None of them did. They were afraid and the fear mysteriously calmed them instead of igniting them to rage.

Then something gives way and the blockage breaks. I helped Josecho nearly close the red metal doors and then followed him in. Regretfully I stepped over the fallen bodies. Then I was onto the sand of the ring. The bulls vanished. I went back to the unraveling pile and pulled people out until they all scrambled away. Underneath it I found a scattered pile of tennis shoes and five slumbering men. Their faces were swollen like big red tomatoes slowly turning blue. All of their mouths were agape but none of them seemed to be breathing. I looked up and the herd materialized and circled the arena dumbfounded.

Afraid that the bulls will return and finish off the unconscious men, I grabbed one of them by the arm and drug him away. It looks like someone bludgeoned his head with a baseball bat. Others appeared and we picked him up and tried to give him to a Policía Foral. The officer only yelled at us and waved his baton in our faces. We put the sleeper down on the white sand. I looked at him and knew he was very bad. His face was bluish-purple and he was clearly dying.

A mozo with a colorful shirt yelled and picked him up. I helped carry him and we cross the ring. A Red Cross medic appeared and I screamed “¿Dónde?” in his face and he pointed. We crossed the ring. There’s an erratic electricity that exudes from the dying; it ejected sparks out into my hands and numbed them as we crossed the ring. The life inside him undulated and surged under his skin warm in my hands. Suddenly I was exhausted and nearly fell as we approached another tunnel.

With the last of my strength we carried him through a door up a flight of stairs. A stretcher flung out of a doorway at the top and we put him down unconscious and purple with his mouth urging for air. As I turned to leave they carried two more in behind him?both asleep and looking very grave. A pale young man gored under his arm walked in?his shirt torn, wet and red. His eyes are wide and strangely placid.

More “Forales” appeared. They push all of us away including the gored young man. I yelled “¡Cornada!” and point at the goring. And I think he got in before the one in the colorful shirt put his arm around me and led me away. I tried to make sense of it all as I climbed out trembling and remembering the way his blood gushed and convulsed under his skin like the life was running scared to escape.

As I got outside I realized I had to find my wife and I ran down to our place and buzzed and they said she was looking for me at the arena. I ran down to Bar Txoko and they said she was just there and I rounded the corner and there she was. I took her in my arms and she throbbed and cried and we held each other in a doorway for a long time. Then she finally calmed and smacked me across the face for scaring her and we laughed, she still doesn’t understand why I do this. As my friends appeared safe and healthy I remembered why I run and we all hugged a lot at Bar Txoko.

Then someone told me they’d screwed up with the doors and I sat with my head in my hands and wondered if the young man was dead.

Later I found out his name was Jon Gerónimo Mendoza, a 19 year old from Vitoria Spain . He’d fallen in the pile up and the many people and the immense, six ton herd crushed his chest and suffocated him. He was in a coma and on life support at the local hospital, most people gave him a slim chance of survival.

As I watched the footage of the run I realized that it was partially caused by a man in charge of one of the doors into the ring. He’d opened it to let some of the “Forales” in so they could line the ring walls and batter anyone who misbehaved. There was a huge swell of valientes (runners who run before the bulls arrive) as the door opened the valientes pried the gate ajar and that set the stage for the terrible. I remembered trying to hand the “Forales” John Jeronimo’s limp body and him waving his baton in my face. I recalled wanting to punch him square in the jaw and I wished I had. Then I saw a video of another Policía Foral carrying one of the sleepers by himself and stopped blaming them.

But there was more to it all than some mistake at the gateway. The pile already started in the tunnel when the door opened. The Valientes caused it. These uninformed first time runners often cause folly on the course. Many of them are American tourists who’ve done no research or people who are half drunk with no sleep, no knowledge, going on rumor and stupidity.

For the past six years I’ve given two bull-run tours a day for first-time runners, teaching them the basics, warning them on the dangers and giving them practical advice on how to react and plan their run. I can’t help but wonder if enforcing some sort of mandatory certification for first time runners could have at once reduced the number of people on the street that morning and avoided the chaotic pile up all together. I wish I’d had a chance to say something to Pamplona about it. Some way to voice my idea and offer to help.

After over 24 hours on life support Jon Gerónimo miraculously woke up from his coma and began to speak. The bull-run I love dodged a major catastrophe but if nothing changes I fear for the future of Pamplona ’s legendary run.

Noticia sobre las personas que ayudaron a evacuar a John mendoza tras el montón del encierro de Sanfermin 2013 de 13 de julio

Tim Pinks again…

Wow, Bill. No matter how many times I read it, I still shake at the same parts. Enhorabuena, my friend.

The photo above, by the way, shows Bill amongst other runners carrying the seriously injured (yes, actually, dying) Jon Gerónimo Mendoza Ruiz to the bullring infirmary. He’s the one between the two people circled. The article is about how Jon’s father has called his rescuers “angels.” Well, if that was your son, brother or friend, you would, wouldn’t you? Jon Mendoza, by the way, is making what the doctors have called an amazing recovery, and is doing okay, although there will be a couple of months before he completely recovers, I understand.

Oh, and “angels?” I understand completely Jon’s Dad calling them that, but I don’t think Bill for one moment would describe himself thus, but I do know one thing…if I was in trouble, he is exactly the sort of human being I’d want covering my back. He’s one of the good guys.

For those of you who don’t know, Bill Hillman is from Chicago and has been coming to San Fermin since 2005, although he had to miss 2007. He has ran the bulls in Pamplona 59 times and so has only missed a very few runs. If you include runs he has done in Sanse (San Sebastian de los Reyes) and Cuellar then it brings it up to 63 runs.

His debut fictional novel, “The Old Neighborhood” is out next April, to be published by Curbside Splendor, and he happily admits his writing has been influenced by Hemingway. Well, that’s not a bad start start, is it?

Thanks again Bill for the article, it is, in parts, a truly emotional and haunting read. Describing those badly injured people as “sleepers” is something that will stay with me forever.

To end, a video of that day. But as many of us have seen the television and bullring filming of what happened that morning, here’s coverage from a mobile phone taken that morning. Scary stuff.

Ya falta mucho, everyone…but ya falta menos.

Tim Pinks


A Civilised Journey to the Heart of the San Ferdream

Well, it’s nearly upon us, Sanfermineros, so ¡ya falta menos! to the lot of yuz, and welcome to one more of Pinks’s Pulitzeros, (prize winning writing it ain’t!) and probably the last one before fiesta, to hoof, as Mr. Testis and The Lokos de Kukuxumusu are getting a bit busy now that the Escalera has hit the 6th of the 6th, and the countdown to Fiesta is truly upon us and about to send our planet spinning off its axis.

Continue reading…

Los guiris love la Fiesta

Kurt Davies (en la foto) lleva desde enero viajando por el mundo. Tras graduarse en la universidad, salió de su paradisíaca tierra a la aventura. Este neozelandés de 22 años ha recorrido 25 países y no ha querido perderse Sanfermin. Ha dormido unas horas en un parque, se ha vestido de blanco riguroso y luego se ha ido a correr el encierro.

La experiencia ha sido, reconoce, lo más increíble que ha hecho en su vida. Pero una cornada que ha visto a un palmo de sus narices le ha quitado las ganas de volver a correr.

Y es que hoy el encierro nos ha dejado imágenes insólitas y varios heridos por asta de toro. El más grave, un estadounidense de 20 años que corría en la Cuesta de Santo Domingo. Quizás también se estrenaba en el encierro, pero ha tenido peor suerte que Kurt.

Este viernes 10 de julio se cumplió un año de la cogida de otro norteamericano, Bill Hillmann. La suya fue una cornada muy ruidosa porque había escrito un capítulo del libro “Cómo sobrevivir en el encierro”. Pero él no se ha rendido como Kurt sino más bien lo contrario: encontró inspiración para su siguiente libro, ya a la venta, “Mozos”. Y ha vuelto para correr cada día como hace desde hace 11 años.

Sanfermin embruja a muchos guiris. Caen seducidos por esa combinación de toros y fiesta en la calle. Ayer Kukuxumusu entregaba el Premio al Guiri de este año, el francés Jean Pierre Gonnord. Al acto acudieron varios de los premiados en anteriores ediciones y amigos suyos. Como el inglés Frank Taylor, campeón de natación, que ha preferido venir a Sanfermin en lugar de competir con otros ‘delfines’ como él en Rusia.

¿Qué encuentran los guiris aquí? La noruega Maggie viene desde hace treinta años sin interrupción. Viene a ver toros y a bailar. Dice que en su país no hay lugares donde se pueda bailar a cierta edad. Y le fascina que estos días en Pamplona bailemos a todas horas, en todas partes, jóvenes y mayores. Viéndola moverse cuesta creer que esta nórdica, funcionaria de Educación especializada en políticas sociales, criada en Nueva York, de madre bailarina, apasionada por el flamenco, sólo pueda bailar a su aire estos días.

A la rusa Anna Nelubova, Guiri 2014, no la veo bailar, pero me cuenta que los toros le cambiaron la vida. Vive entre Moscú y Málaga, intentando atrapar la belleza de esos bichos con sus pinceles y con la cámara de fotos. Cuando el Ballet Ruso está de gira por España, ella lo acompaña como fotógrafa y también ayudante. En vez de vestir al torero, como hacen los mozos de espadas, ella asiste a los bailarines con su indumentaria.

Toros y baile. Los guiris andan embrujados estos días por nuestras calles. Observan fascinados nuestras costumbres ancestrales. Algunos se pillan unas cogorzas monumentales. Otros deambulan sonrientes con cara de “no me lo puedo creer”. Si los ves saltando con las peñas, a lo mejor el hechizo ha hecho su efecto y el año que viene volverán.

Sin ellos Sanfermin no sería lo mismo. Nos han abierto los ojos y el corazón. Por eso en Kukuxumusu les dedicamos un merecido premio. Porque los queremos mucho.

Dennis Clancey en un receso de la jornada en Nepal. SETH ROBSON/STARS AND STRIPES

Dennis Clancey, an American runner in the Running of the Bulls and film director, is now working with the rescue teams in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake

Dennis Clancey is a regular runner of the Sanfermin Running of the Bulls, habitually in the stretch between the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and the Mercaderes corner, ever since 2007. In addition, he is the director of the latest film about the Sanfermin Bullrunning (a documentary entitled Chasing red). Right now he is in Nepal with some twenty other members of the Rubicon Team. This team is made up of military veterans from the USA army who use their military training to help people caught up in natural disasters.

Dennis Clancy carrying out some of his daily tasks, accompanied by Lang Hasta, a Gurkha from the British army. Image from SETH ROBSON/STARS AND STRIPES
Dennis Clancy carrying out some of his daily tasks, accompanied by Lang Hasta, a Gurkha from the British army. Image from SETH ROBSON/STARS AND STRIPES

Clancey has been part of this team for the past six months and he is now experiencing his first rescue attempt, according to the army magazine, Stars & Stripes, the official magazine for the military community of the United States army. The team arrived in Katmandu on the 2nd of May and they have mainly worked on restoring electricity supply to outlying areas with difficult access. Clancey and his companions experienced the second earthquake tremor but without suffering any direct casualties. Sanfermin.com got in touch with Clancey yesterday, 13th of May, and both he and his colleagues are in good condition and carrying out their relief tasks on schedule.

Clancey himself is a veteran of the Iraq war and an ex – infantry captain of the United States army. His concrete role within the Rubicon Team is on this occasion is to plan aid tasks for peripheral areas of Katmandu, in areas with difficult access and under complex conditions.

Dennis Clancey is well-known among Sanfermin fans for being the director of the latest film about the Sanfermin Running of the Bulls – the documentary, Chasing Red. This film has been shown at some film festivals and has already received some awards. The film deals with the experiences of several runners in the Pamplona Running of the Bulls such as Bill Hillman and Gus Ritchie and it also counts on the appearance of the all-rounder, Andy Bell, among others.

Clancey is a fervent fan of the Sanfermin Running of the Bulls and he himself has done some good running on the stretch between city hall at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and corner of Mercaderes/Estafeta Street. His relief work in Nepal will not prevent him from enjoying this year’s Sanfermin fiestas during this coming July, 2015.

Dennis Clancy in the black shirt, in this shot taken by ©Mikel Goñi
Dennis Clancey in the black shirt, in this shot taken by ©Mikel Goñi
Imagen Javier Martínez de la Puente

“There was a lot of hullaballoo on the slope”

Image.   Javier Martínez de la Puente

Carmelo Buttini, A true purebred of the bullrunnings; he has been running every morning in Sanfermin for the past 34 years.

He used to be called the Marqués of Estafeta but that title is in danger of disappearing since he changed his customary location four years ago. Now he is to be seen on the first stretch of Santo Domingo where he can experience that special sensation which gees him up. Carmelo Buttini (Pamplona, 1967) is an “out-and-out” sanferminero – what we fondly recognize here as ‘a fanatic of the running of the bulls’.

At the age of 12 he was already running in the kid’s bullrunning – the Encierro Txiki and his CV holds literally hundreds of encounters with the bullrunnings over the past 34 years. He never misses a single one in Pamplona, of course, (“the Champions league”) but he can often be seen at many other running of the bulls in Tafalla, Sangüesa, Castellón, Alquerías, Vall d’Usó, and Almazora… I have called into his bookshop, La Casa del Libro, an emblematic premises located right in the middle of Estafeta street. I want to get to know, at first hand, what is at the heart of this “business” of being a runner in the Running of the Bulls.

Do you have any English books here? asks a hefty blonde in a foreign accent. Carmelo suggests that we talk while he attends the public but soon the bookshop is filled with people looking for the morning press and he takes me to a quiet corner, amid some bookshelves. It is now 11.00 a.m. Carmelo has just come from a hearty brunch with some of his fellow-runners from this morning’s Running of the Bulls. But I can sense that he has been up since very early today.

How is a typical day during Sanfermin fiestas for you?
I come here to work at 4 o`clock in the morning. I distribute the press around this part of the old town. At that time, the place is crowded with bodies. I finish at 6 o`clock and I come here to the bookstore and I change my clothes, even if I am dressed in my Sanfermin gear. I put on a long-sleeved white T-shirt, but I usually fold up the arms a bit. I put white trousers on and my sneakers for running in The Running of the Bulls. I don’t wear any necktie or sash. At 6:45 I am usually at my place in the slope at Santo Domingo all ready to run. I do the Running of the Bulls and then I come straight back here to work, to distribute more press and when I finish that about 10.00 a.m. I go off to have a brunch with my mates from the bullrunning.

How many T-shirts do you have for the Running of the Bulls?
Four in all – two with the San Fermín badge sown on them and another two with the badge of the Anaitasuna Peña Club. The necktie is also from the Anaitasuna club and I like to wear it carefully tied on. When I finish running, I come to the bookstore and I change my clothes again. If I have had a good running, the next day I repeat with exactly the same gear on. If not, I put on a different T-shirt and a different pair of pants.

Tell us how you experienced this morning’s Running of the Bulls.
The bulls came out of the pens and ran up the slope well, shaping up to charge at the runners, but it was possible to run quite well, not like these past few days with a lot of hassle and hullaballoo. The bulls passed me close by… I always run close against the wall and even if you try to pull aside, the bulls always pass quite close. You have to keep a close eye on them because you only have the two options: stay on your feet or, when they come up tight against the wall, throw yourself down and let them run over you. That way you get a bruise or two but…I have my scars, see? (He shows me a scar of some 25 cm. on his arm.). That’s the way it is.

Have you been tossed very often?
Well, a serious tossing…yes, once in Tafalla, quite a few years ago now.

Do you know Bill Hillman, the American that got gored in these fiestas?
Those of us who run on the slope, we all know each other. Among those injured this year I know Bill… Mariano too, he was gored on the slope…and the one who had his hip broken as well…

Is there a special sense of camaraderie between all of you?
Yes, there is. Those who come from abroad normally run in Estafeta Street, so those who are at the slope in Santo Domingo, the fifty or sixty runners who are normally there, we have known each other for years and years. The Red Cross workers too on this stretch – among them two veteran runners, Josetxo and Antonio– know who we all are and if anything happens to anyone, we all find out straightaway what it’s all about.

What makes the Santo Domingo stretch so special?
There is a very special silence that is real pretty, which you cannot find in Estafeta and which creates a kind of special tension, which is not easy to explain.

From the time you get there, at 6:45, and then until 8.00 a.m. what do you do?
I always go with my good mate, ‘el Bou’, a Catalan friend with whom I send time during the whole of the fiestas. I call him ‘el Bou Adarra’ (‘bou’ means bull in Catalan and ‘adarra’ means “old” in Basque), that is to say, ‘old bull’. If there are not too many people we are strolling up and down there. If there are a lot of people, we stay well down and we try to hug the wall and blend in with the scene there.

Do you usually feel nervous before the run?
Always. And if I didn’t, that would be a bad sign. It is not a sense of panic, but rather a kind of controlled fear. When the run is over, you find yourself hugging some of your mates. If it has gone well for you, but one of your mates has fallen or whatever, you try to form a ring so that the “sweeping up” bell-oxen don’t step on him and wait for the emergency workers to come…it’s a nice sense of camaraderie.

You have taken part in so many Runnings of the Bulls. Is each day so different?
Yes, it is. Each Running of the Bulls is special. The tension which you feel in Santo Domingo is awesome. The cold that you feel…I don’t know if it is because of the early hour of the morning or a result of the nerves. I have been told by others that during that time of waiting for the run to begin, my face turns whiter and stiffer, when I normally tend to have a smiling, easy-going disposition.

How did you get on this morning, at today’s Running?
We had a good laugh on the slope because today was real quiet compared to these past few days when the Bulls were giving us a hiding every morning. We usually say “today we had a lot of hassle”, when you run with a bull on each side of you.

And on the eve of the Running? Do you prepare yourself in any special way?
I don’t usually have any dinner and the following morning I don’t have any breakfast or anything at all. Not even water, until the Running is over. In 2008, a bull gored me right on the anus and the horn penetrated my bladder. Thanks to the fact that I had not drunk anything, the bladder was very compressed and it did not explode. I got away by the skin of the teeth from having to carry a bag for the rest of my life. The doctor who operated on me, explained that to me and since then I continue with that same routine. And, of course, I got to the bathroom several times…a friend of mine usually says “Carmelo is in the bathroom, fulfilling the tradition”.

What exactly is that thing that you feel when you are running with the bulls?
It is something that is not easy to describe. It is like you are on a high. At first I feel fear because on the slope you can see the pens and the rocket when they set it off. We are all hopping up and down, looking down towards the pens, and the runners are saying, “come on, come on, let’s run”. The taller runners warn us when the bulls are approaching a bull on the left, a bull on the right…”. And if you see a couple of experienced runners throw themselves down on the ground, it is a bad sign, it means the bulls are coming heads down. Then you too throw yourself down and wait for them to pass over you.

And you can hear those voices, can you?
Sure thing. You can hear your 50 colleagues as soon as the wick is set alight.

Are there any women running where you?
Yes, there are. But they are not from Pamplona, some American girl or other… … Isabel Solefont is a young woman who sometimes runs son the slope. Her father is also a runner. I think they are from Barcelona. She is a dark-haired girl, slim and light…she runs well. I admire the women who run a lot, especially on this first stretch.

And what about the Bulls, do you hear them bellow?
you hear everything. The bellows, the bells, the hooves strike the ground…it seems that at times they could be elephants. Today we pulled aside but even so they passed by right beside us. In dangerous moments, I like to throw myself to the ground, because if you are caught too close they could drag you all the way to City Hall square by the horns..

When the moments of tension have passed, what do you all do?
First of all, hug some of your mates and you feel so happy and gay. Then I soon begin to notice my empty stomach and I get a real feeling of hunger through me.

Do you notice much difference in the different stretches?
Sure, a lot. Because even the ground changes. In Estafeta we have cobblestone while on the slope it is concrete and easier to slip up here.

What runners do you admire for their style?
In the Pamplona Running of the Bulls there are many…people like me Dani Oteiza, Pitu (Fermín Barón), Belloso, Patxi Ciganda… all of them are very good.

What would you underline about them?
Well, the legs they have, they run well and can last the pace…now there are young people coming in who are very good. Some of them are the sons of veteran runners. And there are still some good runners even at an advanced age. The day before yesterday, one of them retired at the age of seventy-five and who had been running most of his life. But the other day, there was a lot of hassle and he decided that finally he had had enough. There are some good runners still that are now in their sixties.

Has anything changed with the introduction of this new red line?
Yes, now down below just up from the pens the runners are not allowed to go that way. So now the bulls have a clearer vision as they come up and they come up charging with more space. It is not a bottleneck like before. I hope I am wrong, but I fear that there will be changes of calamities occurring now on the slope.

Should the number of runners be limited?
No, let all those who wish to do it, let them run. As long as they respect the norms. Those who grab at the Bulls should be fined…the ones who use their elbows unfairly…the ones who come in flip-flops or with a backpack on their backs. But no, there should not be a limit imposed on the number of runners. I would feel cheesed off if I were stopped from running at other Running of the bull events.

Suddenly I realize that I am not on the Santo Domingo slope but rather in the Bookstore.. Carmelo had me enthralled with his observations on the Sanfermin Running of the Bulls. He still has a busy schedule for the rest of the day. After he shuts shop he will go to eat with 80 people who have come from Castellón. “They treat us very well there and we like to fete them as they deserve here”. Then he will go to the afternoon bullfight, with his buddy, ‘el Bou’, and the Anaitasuna Peña. This evening he must carry the club banner and then afterwards work for a while behind the bar in the club premises. And then the final running of the bulls for this year, with the fearful Miura bulls. He will surely do it with a tired body. But in fiestas, he gets the energy from somewhere and, except for that one hour just before the Running of the Bulls starts, he will continue to smile all day long .

Two runners continue in hospital

Photo Juantxo Erce

According to the medical statement issued just a few moments ago by the Navarra Public Hospital Service, there are now only two injured runners that remain in hospital recovering from the injuries they received when they participated in the Sanfermin Running of the Bulls this year. One of them is a North-American, T.H., who suffered a thorax traumatism in the Running of the Bulls on the 8th of July. The other runner was injured in the final Running of the Bulls on the 14th of July, namely; Australian, J.G. 

Since last Saturday and up to today, some other patients have been discharged from hospital,  namely, E.G.E. from the town of Burlada (Navarra), F.E., a 46-year-old man from Pamplona who received a goring in the bullrunning of the10th of July; the North-American, Bill Hillman, who has recovered from a goring to his right thigh which he received on the 9th of July (photos); the runner from Valencia, J.R.P. who also received a goring to his thorax area on the 9th of July (video); and another runner from Valencia,V.O.M. who broke his shinbone and his peroneal bone in the first Running of the Bulls on the 7th of July.

“Man, you are my angel”

“I don’t like the idea of running at all”, states Bill Hillmann, laid out in a hospital bed in Pamplona, Navarra, where he is recovering from a goring which he received on the 9th of July. The bull went by the name of “Brevito”; bull number 2 from the Victoriano del Río bull-ranch, which is famous for breeding fast bulls. The hospital room seems like a television studio. The media is very interested in this particular story because it contains a certain morbid curiosity. In this particular case, the guy who got gored turns out to be a 32-year-old North-American writer who is the co-author of a book entitled “How to survive the Bulls in Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls”. It could make a great script for a movie.

Bill has an open, honest smile. The telephone in his hospital bedroom rings. It’s a call from CNN, the north-American TV channel. They would like to get in touch with him for a live TV broadcast. The line gets cut off. They ring back again. Bill responds with all the patience of a meek bell-oxen. His only line of contact with the outside world is the hospital phone. These days, during Sanfermin fiestas, he had his passport and his laptop stolen from him and his American cell phone does not work in Spain.


He has narrated the details of his goring several times already. Both actively and passively.Without any complaints. He does not try to change or move his posture in bed, because, with any movement he makes, his right leg reminds him that he is suffering a wounded leg. Jim Hollander, a New York-based photographer who is a regular visitor to Sanfermin fiestas in search of photos, comes into the hospital room. But this time it was not he who got the photos of his fellow-citizen’s mishap. He is simply paying him a visit. He tells me that “Bill is a fine writer” and he shows me a portrait that he made of him in Cuéllar when he was named ambassador of the bullfighting fiesta in that town in Castile. The two men chat for a few minutes. Both men belong to that tribe of North-American visitors who are addicts of the Running of the Bulls and the Sanfermin fiestas.

Several TV channels have passed through, and a radio station too. Two of his best friends have dropped by. Some hospital social workers are also here as well as nurses and even the cleaning lady has been in…one long procession of people. I bide my time and eventually, I get the chance to be alone with him. I notice that he is tired. He has been brought some food and I help him set the tray on the bed. His wife has gone off to get some sleep after spending the night with him. Bill eats with gusto. He says he loves Spanish cooking. I take out my notebook quietly. This man should be resting… the door of the hospital room opens again. Well, well…yet another visit.

Three big men and a woman enter the room. I tell them that Bill is all played out but, of course, they want to say hello to their friend. They all speak with strong American accents. Bill seems pleased to see them. I put away my notebook and listen to them speaking. They too are Sanfermin fanatics; they don’t miss a single day of the fiesta week. One of them got a goring some years ago in a Running of the Bulls. Another of them is holding a copy of the novel which Bill has just published,

“The old neighborhood” and he asks for a signature dedication. Would he have had the book in his travel bag along with his white Sanfermin gear or would he have bought it yesterday from Amazon? Bill takes up a ball point and starts to write something on the first page… he writes and writes… very concentrated… perhaps this is the first time he has used a pen since his accident and for that reason he wants to take his time on it.

His friends take leave of him and I prepare to do the same. Really, my task has been completed. I have brought him a laptop so that he can continue to write some articles for the Chicago Tribune newspaper and note down his first reactions to his goring, and all the fuss it has caused, etc. Ideas won’t be lacking. The laptop was given to me by Mikel Ciaurriz, one of the photographers at Sanfermin.com, the author of the photo which has been seen all around the world and besides, the man behind the cute story which has brought me to this hospital room.

How had it all come about? After checking his work and the sequence of photos that he took of Bill’s goring, Mikel felt that that lesion could turn out to be a very bad one as the horn was very close to the femoral artery. He immediately went over to where Bill was receiving first-aid at the fencing from The Red Cross. He looked into his face. The two men exchanged a look and Bill gave him a thumbs-up OK and Mikel made the same gesture back to him. Pure and simple empathy. Hours later, the two met up again in hospital: Bill immediately recognized Mikel who had come to visit him and to know if there was anything he could do for him. “Man, you are my angel”, was practically the first thing that Bill said to him. And it was the truth. He lent Bill his cell phone so that he could call his parents and tell them that he was fine and well.

Bill looks very pleased when I hand him the laptop. He has not got an Internet connection yet but at least he could do some writing with it. He insists that we should have a chat and that I could give him an interview. I think that maybe it would be good for him to have a relaxing conversation before taking a nap, although I could not help thinking that he would be receiving more transatlantic calls as it was now waking time in The USA. In any case, I started with my questions…

Do your parents know that you are out of danger?

Sure they do. Thanks to Mikel, the photographer, as he gave me his cell phone to let me call them. That guy is my savior!

What exactly happened between the two of you?

When the Red-Cross first-aid people were treating me at the fencing, I was looking at him. I was thinking, well, I am alive and well, I just have a jab from the horns of the bull, and I was not out of my mind. I don’t want anyone to think that I am afraid or out of my mind… the way he looked at me and smiled was part of that first moment of realization. I wanted to let him know that he should tell everyone that I was fine. I just liked the way he looked at me. I felt like shouting out in Spanish “Amo a los toros”, but I was bleeding quite a lot and well, I did not actually do it, but I gave silent thanks for having come out of the run still alive and in one piece.


One of the first visits you had was from Mikel Ciaurriz.

Yes, the very first. I was alone in the room as my wife had gone off to look for our friends. When he entered, I knew him straightaway. Then later he showed me some of his photos and it helped me to understand what exactly had happened… how I got pushed…how I fell. These were the first images that I had seen and that was good for me and important as it cleared my head. I found it hard to believe that a perfect stranger would do all this for me. “Is there anything that you need”? he asked me. And my first thought was for my folks back home… I said to him “I would love to be able to call my parents”. Without any hesitation he held out his cell phone. “Tell me the number” he said”. It was 6 a.m. in Chicago, my parents would be just getting up and maybe they could already see the news. I felt a bit embarrassed but I accepted his kind offer. I just did not want them to be worried. I knew that if they heard my voice it would help to reassure them. It was a real gift. The best gift of this whole damned story. He is a great guy, is Mikel.

What do you miss most right now?

The Fiesta, The Sanfermines, I’m losing out on them! I don’t want to watch the Running of the Bulls on TV. I want to run and I miss not being there with my pals. I have been coming for the past five years and I always stay for the whole of the fiestas.

Do your feel inspired to write more about the Running of the Bulls? Have HaveAre you turning over some new ideas in your head?

Sure, sure, my newspaper, The Chicago Tribune, has already requested me to write some things for them and I am tossing some ideas around at the moment. Now that I have a laptop I will be able to work on that. That’s great. I feel very much like writing.

After Pamplona, will you head straight back to The USA?

No, not yet. Maybe a trip to Morocco…I don’t know…it all depends on how my leg is. Will I be able to carry my baggage…,move about easily…? In August we will travel to London to launch my novel. I have a writer friend there – Irvin Welsh – who is organizing some events for me. He is well-known in his country and he is really helping me a lot. We are both good friends.

When did you write that book, “The old neighborhood”?

I started to write it some ten years ago. And I have rewritten it several times to try to improve it. It was just published a few months ago.

This year you also published a book in electronic format about the Sanfermines, as a co-author with some other American writers, “How to survive in the running of the Bulls”.

That’s right. We wrote it between four of us and also the photographer, Jim Hollander, has participated in it – the guy who just visited me earlier. Joe Distler, who is just an incredible runner and John Hemingway, grandson of the Nobel Prize winner and then Alexander Fiske-Harrison, coordinated the whole project.

What was the experience of sharing a book like?

The book was divided into four parts. I wrote the chapter dealing with the Running of the Bulls…how to run…what to watch for…make sure the bulls don’t catch you…things like that (he laughs out loud). John writes about his grandfather Ernest Hemingway and his passion for the Sanfermines. Joe narrates how the Running of the Bulls has evolved and about the early runners… Alexander did the hardest part of all which was to link up the parts and give a form to the book. Then edit the whole thing and get it out and spread the word about it. The Mayor of Pamplona has written a preface and some local runners like Jokin, Josetxo and others have contributed with their ideas and advice about how to run the Running of the Bulls. It was a nice piece of co-authorship and cooperation from several hands.

In the photos taken of your goring, it is clear that you are wearing some light footwear that looks like stockings with toes on them. Are they the famous ‘barefoot’ ones?

Yes, I always run with them on because I just love them. They are very comfortable and very light. I have had those ones for the past three years and I use them to run and also to do some exercises with.

Have they survived the accident?

I think so. I don’t know exactly where all my things are, but I know that they survived.

Have you read Fiesta, by Hemingway?

Sure. It was the first book I ever read. I was a pretty poor student when I was a kid. I was about twenty years old when I first read it and when I finished it I felt I wanted to write and tell stories like that: I thought to myself “I want to be a writer, I want to go to Spain and I want to run with the fighting bulls”.


The telephone rings. Bill answers it straightaway. It is Michael, a friend. Bill asks him to call back later as he is being interviewed right now and he would love to receive a visit from him in the hospital.

When you were writing the book, did it ever occur to you that you yourself could get gored by a bull?

Sure. I have always thought it could happen to me. The danger is there. You can make a mistake and, with the fighting bull you can never be sure. But I have been lucky because it has not been too serious.

As a writer, you need to have a special vision when it comes to telling how you feel about doing the bullrunning. What is going on inside you just before the start of the Running of the Bulls?

It’s just incredible. I feel fear… expectancy… I start to doubt about myself…about my own abilities… and also a strong sense of camaraderie and friendship, when I see my friends there, ¡aaahhh!, and we slap hands and wish each other “luck”, and you know they are with you and you are with them… because we all feel the same thing… it is all over in a few short minutes but the next day it is there again… It’s just awesome.

And during the run?

As you are running you feel the speed of everything, the excitement, there are so many people around you!… For me the best runnings are when I manage to get a focused view which is not easy as everyone else is trying to do the same and some runners know what the thing is all about and many others don’t. and suddenly that wild herd of animals appear with their tremendous pace and what I would call the “bull-chaos” and to keep your concentration then and there is no easy thing.

What happens when you realize that the Bulls are on top of you?

It’s a fantastic feeling…you feel so much strength and when you get close to the bull and the bull accepts you there and runs with you… it is just mind-blowing. I am waiting all year to get that high each morning during the Runnings of the Bulls.

How can you think at such a speed?

The most complicated thing is to foresee, in millimeters of seconds, what the bull is going to do, how it will move. You look back and you sometimes hear the bellow of the bull, which is an impressive sound (he tries to imitate the sound with an aaaaaaaaaa) and other times you just hear the thump of the hooves (chun, chun, chun), with their fleeting rhythm but also a steady-paced one. Some runners fall and trip-up, other push and shove… The bulls can react in a totally surprising way to all that at times. The bull that caught me was moving ahead quietly. I could feel that it was running along with me and suddenly it let out a bellow, uaaaaaa. If I had seen that there was another runner behind it, I would not have reacted as I did but he also wanted to protect himself from the danger and in his attempt, he pushed me and I fell down and… I got gored by the bull.

Bill takes a gasp after narrating his mishap, as if he had just finished his run.

And when the run is over, do you still feel that power and strength?

Sometimes, not often, I have felt that power, when I know that the Bulls have been with me. It is more than power or strength. I feel like I am part of the animal, that we are together and that all will go fine. It is almost like saying “let´s go”. Afterwards, you feel a great sense of joy…you watch it repeated on TV and you go wow! What adrenalin! But if it has not gone well, you feel a real downer, a real feeling of disappointment.

In what sense, because you have been unable to get close in front of the horns?

Yes it is so disheartening. I start to doubt…to feel that I have failed…that maybe I can never run again.

The phone rings again. This time a call from Chicago. He asks them to call back in 10 minutes.

¿Are you a regular jogger, I mean do you run throughout the year to keep fit.

No, in fact, I hate running. It tires me…it bores me. The only thing that can make me run are the fighting bulls. My legs are long and lanky, my arms are heavy…it is not any fun for me.

Do you play any sports?

I have played American football in my time, I have been a boxing champion and sometimes I do some physical exercise. I have had to leave off the boxing because it causes addiction in me.

Will you run with the Bulls again?

Sure, I hope so. I will go to Cuéllar in August and I will try to run there.

Can you remember the first time that you thought about running the bulls?
I had seen some video or other about the Running of the Bulls, but nothing very much. Where I really discovered about the Running of the Bulls was reading “Fiesta.” That is what got me hooked. When I discovered that those fiestas continued today I knew I just had to come to Pamplona and here the fiestas have become an obsession of mine.

I finish the interview. I explain to Bill what is in the case with the laptop…the charger…the headphones which are brand new and which Mikel put in for him…and I leave the things safely in a corner so that the material is not mislaid among the clutter. I leave with the impression that I have just lived through a Running of the Bulls…from the inside.

A runner from Valencia, seriously wounded

Video FilmXtreme/Opabinia

Video RTVE

In addition to the North-American, Bill Hillmann,, there was another serious goring today from the Victoriano del Río bulls. A 35 year-old runner from Valencia, J.R.P. received a goring to his thorax area. According to a medical statement issued by the Hospital of Navarra, his condition is serious.

J.R.P. sufre 3 heridas por asta, según el parte de heridos.

-Una axilar que penetra ampliamente en cavidad. Se realiza toracotomía
derecha y se comprueba dehiscencia de espacio intercostal 3º a la altura de la
herida axilar, y múltiples fracturas costales derechas. Se explora la cavidad sin
apreciarse heridas pulmonares significativas.

-Herida por asta de toro región escapular y hombro, que tiene un trayecto
hacia adelante disecando el espacio entre clavícula y primera costilla, sin
penetrar en tórax en ese lado; afecta a musculatura trapecio y supraespinoso
con trayecto superior y anterior. Fractura de escápula

-Herida por asta con orificio de entrada a nivel de cresta iliaca izquierda de
unos 7cm. Trayecto ascendente de 16 cm y medial de 11cm que diseca
subcutáneo sin afectar a estructuras vitales ni penetrar en cavidad abdominal

Another three runners had been earlier taken to hospital suffering from diverse contusions. All three have now been discharged from hospital.


North-American writer is gored

North-American, Bill Hillmann received goring at the Telefónica stretch as he was heading down into the bullring, as can be seen in this sequence of photos taken by photographer, Mikel Ciáurriz. The young man had just tripped up and had fallen face up on the ground when the Victoriano bull gored him in his right leg.

Hillman suffered two gorings, both to his right thigh. The medical report states that there is “a wound to his interior lower right thigh in the distal area near to his knee and another wound in the interior face of the lower thigh. The nerve area is not affected.” His condition is said to be “not serious.”

A report on his condition will follow shortly. Hillmann is a thirty-two year-old from Chicago. He recently published the book, “How to survive the bulls of Pamplona”, in co-authorship with John Hemingway, Joe Distler and Alexander Fiske-Harrison, as was reported by Sanfermin.com just a short month ago. In addition, he has published an article on our web page, entitled “Sleepers”. Hillman is an experienced runner, having been a regular runner for more than a decade.


Bill Hillmann, moments before getting the goring. See the full sequence below.

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Hillmann’s Facebook profile provides some details of his relationship with the Sanfermin fiestas. His main photo on this social network is precisely one that shows him helping pull out some people from the pile-up crush in last year’s running of the bulls in the bullring. In addition, he tells us that upon his arrival this year to Pamplona, on the 6th of July, he lost his passport, laptop and some medication.

Mikel Ciaurriz, the photographer who captured the photos of Bill Hillmnan being gored, paid the runner a visit this morning in the hospital. Hillmann was in good form and accompanied by his girlfriend.

John Hemingway spoke to us about the book he wrote in collaboration with Bill Hillmann on the txupinazo opening day on the 6th of July