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Learning about the Running of the Bulls with Miguel Zabalza

We are less than two months away from the beginning of our beloved Running of the Bulls festival, and it is impossible not to talk about it especially when we have the amazing opportunity to talk to an experienced runner from Pamplona that has been running since he was 18 years old.

His name is Miguel Zabalza a passionate runner that has been running the encierro for over 14 years. We decided to interview this Pamplonica (native from pamplona) because he is passionate about the fiesta, he respects the tradition and have a lot expertise about the encierro. We hope you enjoy it, and can learn more about the bull run in Pamplona.

What makes Miguel run the encierro for the first time?
R/: Being from Pamplona and living the Sanfermines since a young age made me be in that world early. All my family was part of the encierro traditions, all of them love it, and it was impossible from me to skip it because I was listening about it since I was a child. In some way to run the encierro is about tradition because is your own family who gets you involved in the early years and creates the passion for it.

How many years have you run the encierro of the Running of the Bulls Festival?

R/: The first time I runned I was 18 years old, now I am 32 it means i have been running the encierro of the Sanfermines for 14 years.  I used to run every day the encierro until I became a father 2 years ago.That was when I stopped running on the weekends because the encierro gets very crowded and there is more risk of being hooked by one of the bulls. before i became a dad I did not care about the risk, but with my son I am more conscious about the danger.

Do you have a specific section that you prefer to run? why?


R/: Yes, when I first started running I did it in the last section of the bull run that is called “telefonica”. for some weird reason I thought that since that section is the last part of the run the bulls were going to be tired at that point, and I would have more chances. With time I realized that bulls are trained, and run beginning to end with the same intensity and speed. Also that sections gets very crowded, so I decided to move to Santo Domingo that is the first stretch of the bull run.

I like it more over there, because the crowd in this section is more local. In Santo Domingo you find people mostly from Pamplona. Also, I like that first stretch of Pamplona’s bull run best because I have more space, and  i can see the bulls getting out of the corrals.

Do you have a preparation ritual to get ready every morning before the running?
R/: No, the encierro is at 8 o’clock. I wake up around 6:30, get a shower and go walking by myself calm and alone. I buy the newspaper of that day, so I can change the chip and disconnect a little bit from the encierro.

What I always do, is to walk the same route to get to Santo Domingo. I go walking by the same streets. perhaps could be a superstition?

Do you have an amulet that you always keep with you during the run?
R/: I keep with me the whole year the Saint of San Fermin in a golden necklace that my wife gave me, because it is very special to me. It is to him that I entrust myself every day, but during the fiesta a little bit more just in case haha.

Besides this I have to run the encierro (bull run) with the daily newspaper in my hand, That is very important for me.

Is not a secret that Pamplona´s encierro is one of the most complicated encierro for the runners. Have you ever had difficult experience?

R/: Yes, there was one time that the bull surprised me and hooked me by my pañuelico (bandana) and throwed me to the floor. It was not a big deal since I stayed on the floor waiting for everything to happen because that is the best thing a runner can do when something like this happens.

If you are running with the bulls you should stay on the floor still, and wait while covering your head with your hands. Do not get up until other runners let you know all the bulls already passed, and is safe for you to get up.

It was so fast that I did not have a chance to think what was happening. I got up saw I was ok and immediately started praying to thank that I was safe.

What would be your tips for all the people that are running for the first time the encierro in this coming sanfermines?
R/: The first thing I would recommend is to be sure what are they putting themselves in.

El Encierro (the running of the bulls) is something strong because is a very explosive run. They have to try to keep calm even though it seems impossible, and is very important to observe what people around them does because locals know where to run and how to run, and that is something they want to keep in mind.

The most important thing to do when they run is to live up the experience, and enjoy it to the maximum. always being aware of what they are doing because is something dangerous. Also, is very important to have respect for the animals for other runners.

Do you have a special experience that you want to share with I live Spain del about El Encierro?
R/: The feeling of being in front of a bull that weighs almost 600 kilos
running behind you is impossible to describe. What I can say is that that day you are the happier man on earth. No matter what the best part of the experience is to end up safe, and go to meet with family and friends afterwards to celebrate.

Do you keep a memories about all the years that have run the encierro of Pamplona?
R/: Yes, I like to get one or two pictures of me running each year.

How would you describe the encierro to all the tourist that are thinking to come to The Running of the Bulls this year?
R/: The encierro of Pamplona is an unforgettable experience especially because thanks to it the city of Pamplona is worldwide known, so to be part of that means so much and gives a special touch to the event.

What does your family think about you running the encierro?
R/:  To be honest they do not like the idea of me running for the risk especially now that I am a father. They started asking me to stop running, but is hard for me because is something I love since always and enjoy doing it. Sooner or later I would have to leave it.

There are very good young runners coming and my job will be to give my son the tradition, and to show him the world around the Running of the Bulls Festival as my parents did with me.

What does Miguel like the most from the Sanfermines besides the encierro?
R/: The thing I like the most is that I have the chance to get together with family and friends while enjoying the fiesta.

My favorite event, besides the bull run, is the chupinazo (Opening Ceremony on July 6th) because we have the tradition to meet for breakfast in the same place at the same time every year. We like to share, and get together before the fiesta starts. I have friends that come every year from Seville, and I feel proud that they keep coming to enjoy the fiesta with me.

It was a pleasure to know more in deep the feelings and thoughts of Miguel Amizar,  and we loved sharing with you his words, so you have a different perspective from the encierro and know what is like to run the encierro to someone from Pamplona. however it is important to clarify here that we do not recommend to our clients or readers, participate in El Encierro (Running of the bulls) because it is a very risky activity and we value the safety of all the visitors.









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