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A Spanish town north of Madrid is preserving tradition with a contemporary edge by replacing the traditional Running of the Bulls with a cost-effective and animal-friendly alternative.
Picture a 3m-wide (10ft), 200kg (440lb) polystyrene ball rolling down hilly cobbled streets behind hoardes of jolly revellers and you have Mataelpino’s modern-day version of a bull run. Known as the Boloencierro, combining the Spanish word for ball (bolo) and bull run (encierro), the event was launched in 2011 when the town couldn’t afford to host its annual bull run. Instead of cancelling the event, Mataelpino’s mayor, Javier de los Nietos, came up with an alternative: the Boloencierro, which has been a town staple ever since.
The fun-filled take on a Spanish classic is praised by PETA and has boosted tourism and garnered Mataelpino publicity from as far off as Japan. Other Spanish towns have even followed suit on the trend, now hosting Boloencierro of their own. But while a giant Styrofoam ball rolling at 30kph (19mph) does not pose the same threat as an imposing toro, injuries can and do occur during the run, with one man at the 2018 event having to be airlifted to hospital after sustaining a head injury when he came between the ball and a fence.
“You feel very small, and you have to keep your wits about you,” de los Nietos told Spanish newspaper El País, “because if the boulder cracks you on the back, it can push you against the walls or onto the ground.”
The sport is certainly not for the faint-hearted but thrill-seekers take the risk in their stride, with more than 700 people flocking to participate in the Indiana Jones-esque adventure.