It may seem like a less dangerous pursuit than being chased through narrow cobbled streets by a pack of half-tonne angry bulls, but Spain’s ‘boloencierro’ run has once again claimed victims.
In this year’s edition a 29-year-old man suffered severe head trauma after being hit by the 250kg polystyrene ball against the door of the local bull ring in Mataelpino, the Madrid municipality where this ‘cruelty-free' alternative to bull running has taken place for the past seven years.
The man was put on assisted breathing by emergency services and quickly evacuated by helicopter to a nearby hospital at midday on Sunday, Spanish news agency EFE reported.
In 2017, another participant was left in a coma after being thwacked round the head by the giant rolling ball and another was hospitalized with three broken ribs.
“We are going to review all of our security measures and boost the information given out because people have started coming here from all over the world,” Mataelpino mayor Javier Pérez de los Nietos told El Pais at the time.
“We don't want this to become a tragic event, but rather something fun.”
“People who are used to bulls know that they can't just stand still in front of them because they could be gored. But with the ball some people think that nothing will happen to them, but this is not the case. If they get a direct hit, it can be serious,”
The huge 250kg polystyrene balls used during this annual running of the balls are coated with a thick layer of resin and then painted with images of bulls.
— Ayuntamiento BCM (@aytoBCM) August 25, 2018
Mataelpino, a small community of no more than 1,700 residents just outside the Spanish capital, was the first place in the country to hold a ‘running of the balls', an event that has caught on in other pueblos across Spain.
Dubbed boloencierro, a made-up up term which combines the Spanish words for bowling ball and running of the bulls, the event sees participants being ‘chased' down the sloping streets of Mataelpino by huge balls rolling at great speed.
The event is divided into the adult run and a family run where kids can take part, as smaller, lighter polystyrene balls are used.
The festival costs a fraction of the price to stage in comparison with the usual bull-themed events and Mataelpino has seen a rise in tourism numbers as a result.
It has also been championed by animal rights activists as a humane and just as fun alternative.