PHOENIX — A well-known tradition in Spain is returning stateside to Arizona.
The running of the bulls begins in Cave Creek on Friday for the fifth time, with a kick-off run specifically for members of the media.
Event promoter Phil Immordino said the bulls arrive in town on Friday and members of the media who are brave enough will get the first run at 5 p.m.
“We’re testing out the bulls, we’re testing out the track, so the media will be the guinea pigs,” he said.
Then the real contests begin with six runs on Saturday and another six on Sunday, each including a herd of 1,700-pound bulls.
“We have twelve runs…we hope to get 200 to 300 runners per run,” Immordino said.
Each race is on a quarter-mile track, but Immordino said most people never make it that far.
“They’ll run a hundred yards and bail out,” he said. “(The bulls) can get up to 45 miles per hour, just depends on what kind of mood they’re in, but probably 20 miles per hour is going to be the average.”
Trying to survive is only one challenge of the event, because this year Immordino said they’ll be naming a world champion, which might push some doubters to decide to compete.
“We’re going to be naming a world champion bull runner and they will be receiving a box suite at the Cardinals game,” he said. “It’s about a $5,000 value.”
Immordino noted the winner is determined by who runs closest to the bulls for the furthest distance in the most amount of runs. He said there will be judges monitoring the runners along the track.
For those who might not want to hop on the other side of the fence, Immordino said there are other events for spectators to partake in, such as a battle of the bands, festival exhibitions and various foods and drinks. Entry is $20 for two people at the gate.
Running alongside the bulls has an obvious hazard level Immordino said, so all runners must be 18 years or older, pay $30, be sober and sign a waiver.
Immordino added that the running of the bulls in Cave Creek is still much safer than in Pamplona, Spain, even down to the type of bull used.
“The one in Spain has Mexican fighting bulls, [which] are bulls bred to bullfight afterwards, [so] their horns are sharp,” he said. “There’s nowhere to escape. You’re on a cobblestone street, so (it’s) not as safe. The big difference is they got 7,000 drunk people in those runs, so you have to watch out more for the other guy.”
The event in Arizona has had some injuries over its five years, though, including one person requiring 10 stitches in his head, so Rural Metro Fire will be at the event to provide medical assistance. Immordino said the stitched-up runner will be returning this year.
Immordino has run in the event before but said he’ll never do it again.
“I did it in 1999, and I swore I’d never do it again. It’s dangerous and scary,” he said.
But he also added, “It’s an adrenaline rush like no other.”