One injured in speedy Spanish bull run

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More than a thousand daredevils dodged fighting bulls in Spain's San Fermin festival Monday, scores of them falling but only one needing hospital treatment.

The 29-year-man from Madrid suffered a large leg bruise after he stumbled and fell during the fifth of eight daily bull-runs in the northern city of Pamplona, organisers said.

It was the smallest number of injured in the bull-run in three years.

The six bulls and six steers with bells around their necks raced 846.6 metres through the cobbled streets from a pen to the bullring in just two minutes 33 seconds. One bull broke far ahead of the pack.

"It all happened so fast, the bulls just whizzed by," said Jason Bozic, a 47-year-old Canadian who wore a white sweatshirt with a red maple leaf and had a rolled up newspaper with which he had planned to touch a bull.

"I had thought I would feel several minutes of fear or something like that but it was all over before I could even really figure out what was going on," he added.

One runner wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned with an image of a bull shielded his head with both arms after he stumbled and fell as other revellers jumped over him.

Another runner tripped over his leg and was knocked to the ground, then another also stumbled over him.

Many visitors watched from balconies overhanging the route.

Liam Hackey, a 21-year-old student from Los Angeles who is backpacking across Europe with two other friends, said it was worth making a stop in Pamplona to take part in a run.

"It was a total rush. Trying to stay ahead of the bulls and avoiding tripping on other people really got the adrenaline pumping," he said as he sipped a glass of pacharan, a sweet local liquor flavoured with aniseed, coffee beans and vanilla, near the bull ring after the run.

Before the animals were released a policeman checked that all the apartment doors along the course were shut.

Runners, most decked out in traditional white garb with red bandanas around their necks, warmed up by running in place or milled about in small groups until they heard the sound of a firecracker which signaled that the animals had been released.

Some thrill-seekers immediately bolted to stay as far ahead of the bulls as possible, others occupied stategic positions in apartment doorways, and the bravest or most foolhardy stayed behind to try to touch the bulls.

In the most serious injury so far, a 25-year-old Australian man was gored in his right thigh during Friday's bull run after he taunted one of the bulls. The Red Cross said Sunday he was improving.

A 23-year-old French man was also gored, less seriously, on Saturday.

Every year between 200 and 300 participants in the run are injured. Most are hurt after falling but some are trampled or gored by the bulls despite increased safety measures.

The most recent death occurred two years ago when a bull gored a 27-year-old Spaniard to death, piercing his neck, heart and lungs with its horns in front of hordes of tourists.

The city of some 200,000 residents expects the festival, which runs until Thursday, will lure at least as many tourists as last year when 1.5 million people turned out and hotels reported a 95-percent occupancy rate.

The action is also followed by millions more on television.

© 2011 AFP

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