News & Politics

Here’s Your Chance to Run With the Bulls—in Richmond!

Five thousand people have already signed up for the first-time event on August 24.

Now you don’t have to travel to Spain to run with the bulls. Image via Migel/Shutterstock.

Have you worked your way through most of the amateur extreme sports but still feel
a need for something more? Have you fantasized about running with the bulls in Pamplona,
Spain, but can’t or won’t make the trip? You’re in luck. If you really want to do
something extreme and, frankly, dangerous, you will get your chance on August 24 at
Richmond’s Virginia Motorsports Park with the Great Bull Run.
“This is the real deal,” claim the organizers on a website promoting the event. They
offer some cold comfort, too: “It’s not as dangerous as you think. There have been
only 15 deaths in the Pamplona running of the bulls in the past 102 years.” If you
like those odds, keep reading.

Though organizers say they’ve taken precautions to make the run as safe as possible,
they admit it is “an inherently dangerous activity.” They expect participants to have
fun, but they make clear that runners “might be trampled, gored, rammed, or tossed
in the air by a bull, or bumped, jostled tripped, or trampled by your fellow runners.”
Between other runners and 1,000-pound bulls, I think I’d probably choose the former.

The Richmond event will be the first of its kind for the Great Bull Run Company, a
Boston-based enterprise launched by two former lawyers,
Rob Dickens and
Bradford Scudder. We talked by phone with Dickens, who said that so far 5,000 people have signed up
for the run, at a cost of $50 per person—and the pool of participants is 70 percent
male and 30 percent female, ranging from ages 18 to 45. Was he surprised by the volume
of response? “No, not at all,” he says. “We wouldn’t have launched this event if we
didn’t think people would want to do it.” He has some advice for participants: Come
dressed to run. “It’s not a race, and it’s not a long-distance run, but wear something
you can actually run in. No high heels, no loose, flowing clothing.”

The company emphasizes the use of “less-aggressive” bulls than those used in Spain.
And there’s more presumably good news: The bulls in Richmond, unlike the bulls in
Spain, are not headed to possible death in a bullfight. They are under the care of
veterinarians, says the website, and the animals are not hit, shocked, or deprived
of food and water. You might even consider them performance bulls, as they will do
the same run at similar events in Atlanta and Houston this year and other cities next
year. When not doing the runs, the bulls live on a free-range farm near Nashville,
Tennessee, says Dickens.

To keep humans safe, there will be extra opportunities for runners to exit the track,
either into a nook or over a fence. There will also be professional bull handlers
at the event. “But make no mistake: you could get seriously injured in this event,”
reminds the website. Truthfully, the same can be said of mountain biking, skydiving,
and kayaking Great Falls—but being trampled to death by bulls seems less like sport
and more like crazy. “It would be horrible and unfortunate,” says Dickens of the possibility
of catastrophic harm to a runner, “but I don’t expect that to happen. I’ve taken lots
of safety precautions.”

The “run” is a quarter mile. Two dozen bulls will be released in three waves of eight
along a track, and run about 15 miles per hour—faster than most humans can run. Spectators
can line the track to watch for a $10 fee. The Great Bull Run website advises “you
arrange yourself somewhere on the quarter-mile track and wait for the bulls to come
to you,” then run with them as long as you can. There are even tips for where to position
yourself depending on how daring you are: Those who “desire the most danger” should
stay in the middle of track and try to dodge the bulls, and those who want only “some
danger” should run along the outer edges of the track and let the bulls pass at a
safe distance.

Dickens himself will be running, too, “probably in the last run of the day, at 1 PM.”
The daylong event will also feature a group food fight called Tomato Royale, live
music, food, and games, and will take place rain or shine.