Festival lures runners to dodge deadly bulls

Wed Jul 6, 2011 10:45am EDT
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By Martin Roberts

PAMPLONA, Spain (Reuters) - Alonso Ceardi nearly died when a half-tonne bull gored him in the chest during Spain's San Fermin festival last year, but he's still addicted to the thrill of running with bulls and is back again this week.

The Chilean-born waiter is one of the thousands of adrenaline junkies who have packed the streets of the northern Spanish town of Pamplona each year since the death-defying running of the bulls ritual inspired novelist Ernest Hemingway, who spread its fame around the world.

Ceardi, 24, who has attended San Fermin since 2008 is looking forward to his 10th outing on Thursday morning when the bulls are herded through Pamplona for the first day of the week-long festival.

"When you're out there, in front of the bulls, it's an enormous high, that's the way it is. It makes you want to run, to feel on top of the world," Ceardi said.

Last year Ceardi was running through the medieval streets with other fans in traditional white garb and red kerchiefs when one of the six bulls turned on him.

It wasn't much of a contest: Ceardi weighed in at 81 kg (179 lb), the bull at more than 500 kg (1,102 lb). Local media have tallied 15 dead in the annual festivities since 1922.

"It hoisted me, I fell to the ground and then it got me in the leg, through my hip," Ceardi said. "I felt afraid, a lot of pain and thought that would be the last thing I'd ever see."

He shouted what he thought would be his last words, "Long Live Chile!" in honor of the country he left to work as a waiter pouring cider in Spain's northern Asturias region.   Continued...

<p>Chilean Alonso Ceardi poses with two pictures that show when he was severely gored during the running of the bulls at the 2010 San Fermin festival in Pamplona, in Oviedo July 4, 2011. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso</p>