CAVE CREEK, Arizona – It's not the organized panic on the streets of Pamplona, but a few hundred thrill-seekers got a similar rush running from bulls in a U.S. desert Saturday.
The run with bulls in the small town of Cave Creek, Arizona, about an hour's drive north of Phoenix gave domestic daredevils a chance to re-create the famed mad dash from fighting animals that attracts thousands every year in Spain.
Organizers in Cave Creek say their version is safer than the storied sprints through Pamplona because their bulls are rodeo animals whose horns have been blunted for the occasion. Also, before each race, runners walk the entire route so they can see where escape exits are.
Still, participants had to sign a lengthy liability waiver and medical form to get what they were looking for -- a taste of the atmosphere that has inspired authors and captured imaginations for decades.
"I'm still shaking," said Maureen Borsodi of Los Angeles, after a Cave Creek bull run. "It was like a mob."
The run took most people about a minute to complete. Nearly two dozen bulls chased as many as 200 people at a time down a quarter-mile, fenced track. Aside from a few people tripping, nobody was seriously hurt.
In Pamplona, gorings and tramplings are common. There have been 15 people killed since record-keeping started in 1924, most recently a 27-year-old Spanish runner who was gored in the chest and neck in 2009.
The weekend-long Arizona event drew dozens of spectators and hundreds of runners. Similar to Spain, numerous participants showed up dressed in red and white -- others in cave Creek dressed in sombreros and Viking hats, contributing to the festival atmosphere with food and alcohol tents.
The runs in Pamplona attract participants from around the world, who come to evade angry bulls in the morning then party in the streets until dawn in a bash that lasts about a week.
Despite the test on their nerves, several Cave Creek runners were eager to go again, and some were setting their sights higher.
"I'm looking at this as a warm-up for going to Spain," said Evan Owen, Borsodi's friend.
But for Borsodi, the run helped her decide whether to stop in Pamplona on a planned trip to Spain.
"There's no way," Borsodi said. "I'll stick to Madrid."
Animal rights groups and others have voiced their opposition to the Cave Creek run, calling it animal cruelty. And officials in the dusty, 5,000-person town withdrew their blessings when organizer Phil Immordino didn't produce the $3 million insurance policy they requested.
But the event, held on private property, went on and Immordino has high hopes this can become an annual gathering.
"We're still working out the kinks. Maybe we need more bulls, maybe more runners -- whatever keeps people watching," Immordino said.
Immordino has organized similar runs three times, in 1998 and 1999 in the resort town of Mesquite, Nevada, and in 2002 in Scottsdale, Arizona. No one was killed or seriously injured in any of those runs.