Thursday, February 22, 2018
Events

Forget Pamplona, run with the bulls in Dade City

A chance to dodge stampeding bulls used to require a flight to Spain. But thrill seekers who can't afford a trip to Pamplona for the running of the bulls, get excited: You can risk life and limb in Dade City instead.

On Saturday, the inaugural Great Bull Run takes over the horse track at Little Everglades Ranch, where in six runs, humans and bulls will intermingle.

"It's exhilarating when you're done with it" — assuming you haven't been gored, said Rob Dickens, chief operating officer for the Great Bull Run.

Before a run, bulls and steers that range in weight from 800 to 1,700 pounds are corralled at the start of a track and participants — up to 300 per run this weekend — pick spots anywhere on the track to wait for the bulls and steers to round the bends.

"Bulls tend not to run," Dickens said. "They tend to dare you to come at them." But steers, which are castrated bulls, "will run, and that will trigger the bulls' stampede instinct."

As the stampede approaches, participants are free to get so close to the bulls and steers that they have to dodge them, but they are also free to hide in nooks in the fence and watch them pass. In each run Saturday, 18 bulls and steers will be released in two waves of nine, so everybody gets two chances to dodge them.

"It'll be over within a minute," Dickens said. "Bulls run much faster than people" — up to 35 mph. "Your hair's standing on end, adrenaline's pumping," he said. "You're not running to a finish line. You're getting out of the way."

But only after you've signed an assumption of risk.

Face it, said Dickens, who has participated in several bull runs: "You could die."

"If you get run over by a bull, well, that's what you signed up for," he said. "It's not just the bulls you have to worry about. It's the people."

Fellow participants could collide with you, too.

"If it was a completely safe event, there would be no lure," said Dickens.

But participants can be careful.

"Best not to wear loose, flowing clothes that could get hooked on a bull's horn," Dickens said. And hop the fence if you think you have to.

Only 15 people have perished in the Pamplona bull runs in a century, he said, and of the more than 10,000 people who have participated in the Great Bull Run's events so far, nobody has died and only two injuries have been serious: a broken wrist and a broken pelvis.

More likely than with injuries, Dickens said, participants "leave with a sense of accomplishment, great stories and some bragging rights."

Arleen Spenceley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6235.

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