The 875-meter Pamplona bull run route twists its way through the medieval streets of the Old Quarter. As the first rocket is fired, and the gates are opened, the bulls charge onto the cobbled streets where they will barrel along a narrow, barricaded route toward the bull ring, or Plaza de Toros. Calle de Santo Domingo is the first segment of the route, and arguably one of the most dangerous. The terrain on Santo Domingo street is perilously steep, in some places with an uphill gradient of 10 percent.
Calle de Santo Domingo – a sloping street
Calle de Santo Domingo may only span 280 meters, but given the pitched slope, dearth of escape routes and fact that the bulls are fresh and full of energy – runners must be ready for anything. As the bulls burst forth from the corral, they are upon the initial wave of runners who are poised to jump into action as they anxiously await their thunderous arrival.
Not surprisingly, the first part of Santo Domingo is typically packed with only the very experienced, veteran runners who know the best strategies for maneuvering in tight spaces that are, in parts, boxed in by stone walls. These men train rigorously throughout the year and know that the slightest mistake can cost them life and limb. It is on Calle Santo Domingo Pamplona where Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Michener nearly died when a bull swiped its horns against the wall, nearly disemboweling him.
A lightning fast uphill sprint
Sprinting uphill for short distances is easier for bulls than it is people due to their shorter front legs. If one decides to break away from the herd, this is when things get extremely risky. You’ll want to know which areas of this stretch allow room for escape from a lone bull or errant horn. The bulls run their fastest on this first part of the encierro, and have been clocked at speeds approaching 35 mph!
After a slight curve to the left, Santo Domingo widens just enough to allow runners the room to fan out and let the faster bulls pass by.
Some of the hard-core runners – whether out of bravado or pure adrenaline – have actually run downhill toward the charging bulls. This tactic is not recommended, even if you have participated in the Running of the Bulls before.
Training tips from experienced bull runners
The San Fermin Festival is renowned for its adrenaline-fueled bull runs. Hoping to participate in this time-honored tradition? Find your Pamplona Balcony. or learn how to run with the bulls. Check out our comprehensive Pamplona Bull Run Center. Consider joining our Bull Runner’s Club – an exclusive online community where you can glean information from veteran Pamplona bull runners, share resources and communicate with like-minded people.