COAST CITIES — Why would anyone run with the bulls? It was an easy question for Hal and Kyle Streckert to answer sitting in the safety and comfort of their San Diego homes.
“Ever since I knew of the run, for as long as I can remember, it’s always interested me,” Kyle Streckert, a 29-year-old Rancho Santa Fe resident, said, adding that he and his father shared the desire to participate in the annual event that began hundreds of years ago as a way to transport the animals from the corral to the bullring. “We both felt the same way. Deep down inside, we knew it was something we wanted to do.”
“Some people see a mountain and want to climb it,” Hal Streckert said. “It’s just something you have to feel inside.”
But standing at the end of Cuesta de Santa Domingo in Pamplona, Spain, surrounded by “a horde of lunatics waiting for the release of six angry bulls,” Hal Streckert found himself struggling to answer a different question: What am I doing here?
“When you’re standing there and the bulls are coming, you know something could happen,” he said. “You feel like danger is coming.”
“The funny thing was, there wasn’t much going through my mind,” Kyle Streckert said. “I didn’t have that luxury. It all started to go so fast that rational thinking just went out the window.”
His father, on the other hand, had a plan. He would run with the crowd and stay on the inside of the turns.
“If a bull slips, which they frequently do, their momentum carries them to the outside and they gather up runners like bowling pins,” he said. Then he realized he didn’t have to outrun the bulls. “I just had to be faster than the guy next to me.”
But like his son’s rational thinking, that strategy disappeared once the rocket signaling the opening of the corral gate was shot off and the bulls began their run. “It was just push-shove-run, push-run-shove as the immediate concern was getting trampled, not by the bulls, but by the mob of runners,” Hal Streckert said.
“Then, out of nowhere, there’s a 1-ton raging beast with sharp horns charging directly at me,” he said. “The next time I get this close to a bull I want it to be a medium-rare filet mignon.”
Hal Streckert said he was surprised at how fast the bulls came. “The bulls are quicker than the runners, and you can’t run fast because there are so many people,” he said.
In addition to the run, which takes an average of four minutes, both men were amazed by the sheer magnitude of the San Fermin festival, an annual nine-day celebration that includes the daily run.
“The bulls are just part of it,” Hal Streckert said. “It’s a big street party with music. It’s just good times.”
“I immediately had the San Fermin bug,” Kyle Streckert said. “We arrived to a sea of all nationalities and ages, from 2 to 100, all dressed in red and white. I was surprised at the level of involvement with the festival itself.”
Both men said they would definitely return and highly recommend trying the bull run. “It’s not as crazy as it sounds,” Kyle Streckert said. “If you have a chance you should check it out.”
Now, after having run with the bulls, Hal Streckert said he is better prepared to answer the original question of why anyone would do it.
“The answer is so obvious,” he said. “Because someone opened the corral gate.”