Nothing beats the experience

Published 8:24 am Friday, April 24, 2015

Wednesday’s photos in the Daily News showing Bill and Will Arata skydiving well above the ground in Lumberton, Miss., instantly caught my attention.

You can just see the wind cutting through Bill Arata’s hair as well as his contorted facial features from falling at a rate of 120 miles an hour during the descent. To the uninformed, he sure appears to be a professional skydiver. The Aratas were in a group of seven who defied death and lived to tell about it.

It was on their bucket list of top things to do before they died. I can certainly understand why they did it. The adrenaline rush must have been quite something.

Long before Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman made doing seemingly crazy things popular in the 2007 movie “The Bucket List,” I had a similar list of things I wanted to do, but just didn’t have a specific name for it. Among the spectacular things I wanted to do before I got old and decrepit was run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, during the annual Festival of San Fermin.

I scratched that off my to-do list in 1999. And I have the photos to prove it.

Like the Aratas described the skydiving thrill, there is nothing like that adrenaline rush when it comes to running away from bulls, which are chasing you down narrow, cobblestone streets in an ancient town.

Charging bulls are certainly a dangerous aspect of the run. But you have to be more than mindful of the other runners as well.

This is a festival and a vast majority had just quit drinking right up until the start of the run. I was probably one of the few stone cold sober ones that day. Officials did a pretty good job of weeding out runners deemed unfit to participate.

I just must have a friendly face. For some reason, just before the run, another runner from Poland decided he wanted to be my friend and wanted to talk to me constantly just before the bulls were let out of their pens at 8 a.m. sharp. In my opinion, talking and not paying close attention to what you’re doing are what gets most people trampled and seriously injured during this festival.

I have never been a fast runner. It was more like a trot with fast arm movement when the run began. I got to the entrance to the stadium and started looking for a place to jump over the wall in case I needed it. Seeing none, I did the worst thing I could do and stopped. I saw the first group of bulls pass to my left on into the stadium. I got behind them and made it on it before the second group came along.

When you get inside the stadium, they release steers, whose horns are covered. Some of the braver runners sit in front of the chute to make the steers jump over them. That was something I decided not to do. Runners antagonize the steers and run from them. The steers catch some of them and make them pay as thousands of people in the stands hoot and whistle. It’s frowned upon to touch the animals. But that goes out the window when one of them has you in your sights.

Somehow, the Polish fellow from the start of the run found me in the stadium and continued talking.

It was about that time I decided it was time to go. I jumped over the concrete wall to get out of the arena.

The running of the bulls looks even more dangerous on television, but you sure don’t get that same rush watching on television.

That was my own personal challenge. I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience.

Randy Hammons is a Daily News staff writer. He can be reached by calling 985-732-2565 or by email at