You know it's real when the laughs stop, all the cameras are off, and silence fills the air.
I was petrified, but as the leader of the pack, I felt it was too early to show it. As talks went from our fears, to health insurance numbers, people's smiles turned to nothing, and all I could think about was "Where the f*ck is this bus? It's almost 1am."
I left everyone upstairs in the living room. Eighteen Tribe members, contemplating life, and (again) what I'd gotten them into. Fair enough, this idea was enough to put me over the edge as well. They were told that I was downstairs, on this Madrid street, waiting for our chartered bus. This was a partial truth. The other side to that coin was, the air in the apartment was thick with fear, and I needed the elements of outside to just breathe. I needed to get out and face it on my own.
As the five hour ride shortened, the bus became fidgitty. Those who weren't running, were sound asleep. Those who were running, wide awake. Pacing the bus, stretching, reading the Bible (no bullsh*t), or just staring ahead at the vast lands of Spain, both anticipating and dreading the signs reading 'Pamplona".
We arrived. My body arrived, but it was nearly out of body for me. My mind had fast forwarded about 30 minutes, to envisioning all of us safe and sound in the stadium, unscathed from the bulls.
I didn't realize until a guy we were standing by, from Minnesota, acknowledged that it was a group of us women who were running. Much love to Antoine and Blue for holding down the fellas of the Tribe, but it was a group of right women, who said we're going to do this, and do it together....or so we thought.
PHOTO: Sheila Brown
There are two places on this course that you don't want to get caught up, Dead Man's Curve and the entrance to the stadium. If you get caught up by bulls in one of those two areas, you're fu$%ed. Where we decided to set up shop, ironically was the straight away right before Dead Man's Curve. My strategy, run from my starting point to the beginning of Dean Man's Curve, dip under the fence and off the course, then run through town to get to the stadium. My spirit was good with this plan. I was sticking with it.
About 10 minutes before the run begins, the police gather people into clusters along the course (the sh*t you wish you would have had someone tell you beforehand) and you aren't released until 5 minutes before the first gun shot goes off, to find your spot. There's two shots. The first signaling that the bulls have been released. The second signaling the last bull has left and all are on the course.
Once the crowd was released about four of the seven of us had run through Dead Man's Curve....I stayed back. I wanted to be where I was comfortable. Three of us stook to the plan. Three almost immediately became two, which shortly thereafter became one...me alone on the course. I refused to leave before seeing at least one of these bulls.
First shot rings off.
Second shot rings off. It is now only a matter of time before I see one of these bulls. I'd been told to estimate around 30 seconds before I see one. This proved to be false. No more than 15 seconds after the second shot rings off, I brace, turn to look behind me and there are grown men, hundreds of them, runnning AT me..HARD. I pick up the pace, and as soon as I go to turn and gauge the crowd behind me again, three bulls, two of them had the light brown/white coat, run right past me to the left. I approach Dead Man's Curve, and right before it, I dipped out underneath the fence, and started my sprint to the stadium, through town.
PHOTO: Sheila Brown
It was the most invigorating 15 seconds of my life. Sex included.
The Tribe made it unscathed and the bond between the runners was palpable in the air. Black people running with the bulls...red card status. Tribe sh!t.