It is almost appropriate that I sit here on a Sunday afternoon and reflecting on the event of yesterday. Yet, it is not in my usual coffee shop in downtown Alexandria, but much further away. I sit before you writing in the most relaxing city for me. Located on Camp Street, just minutes away from Bourbon, I sit in my hotel room and want to tell you another one of my great stories. On Saturday, I was among the 10,000 people who got up, or never slept the night before, for an eight o'clock run around the streets of New Orleans. We only had to a simple route that was about a mile long, but there was motivation behind that run. Four hundred women dressed in red wearing pads, skates, horned helmets and holding wiffle, plastic or rubber bats were chasing behind looking to whack you at every moment. New Orleans's version of an annual festival held in Pamplona, Spain and romanticized by Ernest Hemingway was an experience that people would question you for doing but you would keep doing until you could not anymore.
For those who want to do this event, one of the first items to be aware of is that the event starts early. The run might start at 8 a.m., but you really need to be there for about 7. Getting there early allows you to relax, get pictures and enjoy the atmosphere before the event begins. Also, you can position yourself to get on the run early and not deal with the congestion as you are trying to complete the run. I got there before 7 and really got to talk to a lot of people and taking pictures of all of the bulls that came in from far away to participate in the event. The run almost became a family reunion for the bulls. In most cases, some of bulls may only see each other physically once a year. A lot of them talk to each other on Facebook but never really get to see each other. Actually, the event makes them want to see each other more if possible.
At 7:30, the crowd starts forming larger and larger and the procession of San Fermin starts occurring. The sound of drums can be heard in the distance and the statue starts being seen far away. As the sound gets closer, the leaders of the procession start screaming "Make way!! Make way!!!" The statue and drummers pass you by and you just naturally start walking with them and enjoying the sound they make. We eventually make it to the stage where the drummers continue their song. Then, you start hearing trumpeters on the balcony opposite of the stage. The drummers and trumpeters go back and forth playing until The Bishop shows above the crowd in the balcony. The Bishop (creator of the NO Run) celebrates the fact that more people were in New Orleans for the bull run than the amount that participated in Pamplona that morning. Also, a tribute was made to a veteran of the run who passed away during the year. One of his dying wishes was to have friends and family come and take his place in the run. Then, The Bishop asks us to get on one knee and we receive the blessing for the run. Upon conclusion, we start moving to start towards the route.
As we start moving towards the route, to the right stands about 100 bulls ready to be released and pummel someone. If they could foam at the month, they would. I get to their area and start walking pass them. Some started whacking away as people passed them by. I said some words that can not be said here and eventually made the turn towards to route. Two others from Alexandria and myself start heading down the route and eventually we start seeing others behind us running. Uh oh. That could only mean one thing: they have released some of the bulls. We eventually start getting down the route and see the second pack of bulls waiting to be released. In the second pack was the dear Cenla Derby Dames who came for the event. Now, I should say I have been prodding these bulls for a week and a half. Words have been spoken including what one bull was going to do to me when she tracked me down. Now, as I am passing them by, I waved at the bulls and they are started screaming at me and how they were going to get me. The runners kept going and started passing by Harrah's Casino.
Now, another tip for the run is that you need to be in a little bit of shape if you are going to run. You can walk, jog, or trot. So long as you are moving, you are okay. I think I might have started too fast in the run because by the time we got to Harrah's, I started getting pains around the lower rib area. Okay, not good, but I need to keep going and I started walking some. Eventually, the Cenla Derby Dames were released into the route. As I started seeing them, I started saying hi to them. One red headed bull was so zoned into the run that she just zoomed on by never hearing the yells of her colleagues telling her that she had passed me. The rest of the Dames made up for it and I got whacked hard. The runners kept going and we started to pass Group Three that was located near the corner of Canal and Poydras. As I pass them, I wave at my dear friend from Pearl River Roller Derby. I had been talking a lot of smack and she said she was going to relieve aggression on me. I knew I was going to get killed when she was able to track me down.
We eventually traveled up N. Peters Street and then turned towards Decatur to finish the run. As I am about to head down Decatur, a little problem happened. I did not have my camera strapped around my neck. Someone hits my hand and I dropped my camera. I started checking the damage and did not see any but it would not turn on. I checking and then I noticed that the media card door was open. As soon as I got it closed, bingo!!! Back in action. As I eventually got to the Canal Street, my dear friend caught up and I waved at her. She stopped and started whacking away. Aggression was being relieved.
The hits kept coming and I started seeing that I was getting close to finish banner. Well, I did not want to end the run. So about 50 yards from the finish line, I stopped, turned around and started taking pictures of the runners approaching the finish line. The bulls themselves eventually started doing the same thing and a gauntlet of bulls started forming behind me. I felt like I was starting in front of the barbarians at the gate. My job was to capture the reaction of the runners and they were about to face the gauntlet. All of the runners in all of the different costumes started coming to the end of the run. The creativity of the different runners were amazing. Some people even brought along a rickshaw and were carrying people in the rickshaw. Every once in a while, I would turn my head around and I kept seeing the gauntlet get bigger and bigger. I knew my time would come to go through. Eventually, I felt I had taken enough pictures and started heading through. I found out later that some of the bulls had filled bats and I know people who got welts from being hit so hard. I eventually got through the gauntlet and the finish line. I had finished the run!! Yes!!!
Uh, no...there was one other obstacle that I had to get through. It was another gauntlet. However, this one looked more like the Soul Train dance line. Bulls standing to the left and right, and the runners going through the middle. Okay, so I started heading down the line and eventually I started approaching my Dames. When the red head spotted me, she started yelling at the gauntlet, "It's Jarrod, get ready!!!" Once I heard that, I did the only honorable thing to do. I hung my camera around my neck, placed my cigar in my mouth, lowered my sunglasses, and slowly walked into the firing squad. I felt every single hit and flinched at times with the hits. I never changed my pace walking down the line. As I got near the end, a bull was standing in the middle of the line. The bull in the middle: my dear friend from Pearl River. Once again, never changed my pace, just walked valiantly into that dark night. I think I felt multiple hits occurring, not real sure. All I know is that it hurt. I got through the line and really was finished.
After the finish, I hooked up with some of the Dames and we left before the competitions related to bulls such as most creative horns and largest horns. We were all tired and with the crowd, it was just a good time to leave. Through the day and night, I kept seeing people still dressed in their Pamplona outfits enjoying New Orleans in true fashion. As we were walking through town and stop at places, people would ask what was going on and why we were dressed the way we were. We would explain the Running of the Bulls to them trying to get them for next year.
So as I sit here reflecting, the question at the end of this adventure is would I ever do this again. The simplest answer is ABSOLUTELY YES!!! In a heartbeat!!! Surprisingly, it is almost a family event. I saw people with their kids participating in the event. I saw a little baby dressed and had a mustache on its face. It was so cute. Little kids were running the route. I heard a story about a father who used his son to protect his rear at one point. The bull lightly tapped the kid on the rear. Upon the kid moving, the bull whacked the dad multiple times screaming "Revenge!!!" The kid was overjoyed by what the bull did to the dad.
Yes, it is early in the morning. It needed to be. The humidity and the temperatures at this time of year if the run was later in the day would lead to heat exhaustion and hospital visits by runners and possible the bulls. The route is a nice distance but you don't have to run the whole route. Most people did not. I did not run the whole route. For people who want to be bulls, you just need to be used to skating on roads. If your endurance is good, you will have a blast. It is a great opportunity to relieve aggression for you.
In the waning hours of my vacation here in New Orleans, I reflect on an event with great fondness and joy. I think I have something that I can revolve a vacation around. You may be sore, but you will want to do it again the following year.
What an event!!!