Who would have believed that a 1926 novel that begins, “Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton” would eventually lead to injuries and possible deaths next week at Virginia Motorsports Park near Richmond?
Of course The Sun Also Rises also includes a description of the annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Hemingway was famously adventurous, but even he had enough sense simply to watch:
Down below the narrow street was empty. All the balconies were crowded with people. Suddenly a crowd came down the street. They were all running, packed close together. They passed along and up the street toward the bull-ring and behind them came more men running faster, and then some stragglers who were really running. Behind them was a little bare space, and then the bulls galloping, tossing their heads up and down. It all went out of sight around the corner. One man fell, rolled to the gutter, and lay quiet. But the bulls went right on and did not notice him. They were all running together.
It was enough to turn an obscure local festival into an international tourist spectacular.
I suppose it was a matter of time before someone decided to make some money by offering to re-create the experience here in the US. And so we have The Great Bull Run beginning August 24 here in Virginia and (I suppose if things don’t end too horribly) moving on to other locations.
According to the FAQ:
By participating in the run, you accept the risk that you might be trampled, gored, rammed or tossed in the air by a bull, or bumped, jostled, tripped or trampled by your fellow runners. We do what we can to minimize those risks by using less-aggressive bulls than those used in Spain and allowing runners to hide in nooks and climb over the track fence if necessary, but make no mistake: you could get seriously injured in this event. That’s why there’s a mandatory insurance fee during the registration process and medical staff on site.
Interesting fact: There have been only fifteen deaths in the Pamplona running of the bulls in the past 102 years! Even so, we’ve added significantly more safety precautions for The Great Bull Run to further reduce that risk (but you could still die).
Under Fine Print, we learn:
All participants in The Great Bull Run… must sign a waiver of liability.
According to The Roanoke Times:
Already, 5,000 have registered to run with the bulls and hurl tomatoes at each other…
No bulls will be hurt in the making, assures organizer Rob Dickens, who ticks off a list of safety precautions for the 24 bulls: a veterinarian on hand; running only on turf or grass, not injurious pavement; no hard-to-navigate sharp turns and definitely no bull fighting.
It’s all about the danger, a true rush of adrenaline and feeling the extraordinary excitement, Dickens said. Runners can duck into nooks or climb over the course’s fence, which, on paper, might look like an escape. Reality check: 1,000 runners and charging bulls in a confined space, spiced with a little bit of panic and a whole lot of inexperience by the runners and the organizers.
An event like this brings out the latent conservative in me. If anyone is stupid enough to sign that waiver and gets badly injured, I’m inclined to say: Sorry, you’re on your own.