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Running with the Bulls with a Real-Life Hemingway

  • Staff

It’s no secret we’re big fans of legendary author, beard icon and daiquiri enthusiast Ernest Hemingway here at Kempt. Just invoking his name conjures visions of rum-soaked fishing trips, stoic prose and, of course, the running of the bulls.

And as we’ve just learned from our friends at UrbanDaddy Jetset, it didn’t all stop with Ernie. They’ve caught up with Ernest Hemingway’s grandson, John—who’s actually run the gauntlet, whether or not he’s convinced Gramps did—to get an invaluable lesson on how to run with the bulls. (It’s the sort of wisdom you’re born with.) So without further ado...

John Hemingway imparts his wisdom on running with the bulls.

So how’s it work? You just show up, ready to run? Yeah. You have to get there in the morning early. If you partied all night, you better be able to wake up and be in some sort of condition to run. Then the police tell you, in various languages, what not to do: don’t touch the bull, no alcohol, that sort of stuff.

How long does it actually take from start to finish? Maybe two and a half minutes.

And what are the bulls like? They’re strong animals, fast. Every day you have six bulls. They just want to get from point A to point B. They don’t really give a damn about the people.

Sounds right. The problem comes if a bull becomes separated from the herd, at which point it immediately stakes out a territory—anything within striking distance of its horns, he goes for. And if he’s got you there, he will keep coming until he kills you.

Any tips to avoid that sort of thing? If you get knocked down, stay down. ... The bull will go to you if you move. The bull doesn’t see colors; it sees movements.

Do you wear special shoes? I just wear Converse.

Interesting. How’re the roads? It’s a pretty slippery cobblestone. After they clean it at night, it’s all wet in the morning. So, it’s a real mess.

We hear the whole week’s otherwise like a nonstop party. Is that right? Basically. You meet friends, you make friends, if they don’t show up you meet someone else. People always ask, “How many hours of sleep did you get last night?” “Oh, three. That’s not bad.” [laughs]

We almost don’t need to ask, but: how did you end up doing this? People ask me if it’s because my grandfather ran, and I don’t really know. I see no proof that he did run, but there’s no proof that he didn’t. People have said forever that he used to run—that he ran like mad.

Incredible. Everyone there, in some shape or form, must be there because of your grandfather’s writing. He made it famous. He put it on the map, but it existed way before he went there. It was a local festival. But he made it what it is today.

Did you receive any family advice about the running of the bulls? No. Oh, no.