Write what you know: Running for your life

Let’s be honest. We put our characters through terrible things. It’s fun to terrify them. It brings us pleasure to do so…or at least it brings me pleasure. There are certain “terrible things” that are universal. They’re in our nightmares. They’ve been a part of our collective psyche since there’s been a human race. That’s not to say everyone is afraid of them. Some people have overcome that fear, but it was still a fear that had to be overcome.



This happens so often in stories. Your character is just minding their own business (or not) and suddenly, the big scary thing is after them, and they have to run. A few years ago, I decided I would experience this for myself. I just needed to find something scary to run from. This is what I picked.


The running of the bulls is an old Spanish tradition. I didn’t want to go Spain, so I looked for something more local. I found http://runningwiththebullsusa.com/. It hasn’t been updated in months, so I suspect it went out of business, but in 2012, it was still going. Plus, the world was about to end so what did I have to lose? This was in Phoenix, and wasn’t as dangerous as the actual running of the bulls in Spain. These were rodeo bulls instead of bull fighting bulls so they weren’t actually trying to kill me. They were just running behind me. It’s still dangerous, just not as dangerous. Unfortunately, I didn’t yet have a gopro, so you’re going to have to settle for my description.

I got in the back of the crowd that would be running because I wanted the best experience. They blew the whistle, and we started running, though I was at a slow jog. They blew another whistle and the bulls were released. I turned around and saw the them approaching. Suddenly, I was facing forward, and my legs were moving as fast as they could. I have no memory of turning back around. I was just running at full speed. My heart was racing. There was no rational thought in my mind. A bull passed me, several feet to one side. I turned around. They were all around me, and I was running faster. Sometimes, you read scenes with people running from things. They mention their lungs burning from the effort. I noticed nothing of the sort. I didn’t notice the ground or how the air was dusty. One of the few things going through my mind was “RUN!”. The other was a realization that I could die. This wasn’t a rational thought. Rather it was a terrifying uncertainty that this could be the end. It far outweighed the actual danger it was in. It was focused on perceived danger. These creatures are ten times bigger than I am. They run faster than me. If one catches me, there’s nothing I can do. The whole thing lasted about a minute. It was amazing and terrifying, and I would absolutely do it again.

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