Running with the Virtual Bulls

On ninth day of the fiesta I found myself, despite fervently refusing the four years prior, inside the fences of the encierro. I’d already seen gorings from the press barriers and knew what could come, but to complete my fiesta experience from what I was clearly missing, I ran the Ayutamiento.

It wasn’t much of run of course, I barely got anywhere before the bulls were past me and the crowd had shoved me aside, but it was exhilarating nonetheless. I finally seem to see where the camaraderie of the runners comes from. What the veterans talk about when praising the run itself. By no means am I a runner now, but I see it, what wishing someone luck before then run means.

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The very same day I had the pleasure of running again–this time the length of the course. An impossible feat if it weren’t for the Virtual Reality (VR) software presented by the folks at the Encierro Exhibition.

Donning the HTC Vive headgear and stepping into braced platform that would allow one to run freely in any direction while keeping the runner in place, the Omni by Virtuix , I was placed in a virtual encierro.

The studio behind the work has clearly kept attention to detail a top priority, as with every excited head turn, one could see the photorealistically accurate buildings that make up the course. And, to my delight, one could look down alleyways and streets beyond the course, too.

Inclines, bends and buildings are all there already. One might even see more in the VR simulation of the actual buildings surrounding the run than during the fiesta, as the crowds of San Fermin cover what the encierro experience aims to reproduce.

The Toro del Fuego (or Firebull) is a plastic bull likeness with real bull horns made for children, and it gets its name from the fireworks it shoots as it chases the younger generation of the fiesta.

Naturally, the beta is a beta and there is a pronounced lack of runners, and there aren’t any steers, photographers, policemen and attendants to the run of all sorts to see. And yet, the miracle-run from just before the bullpen to the triumphant exit of the callejon into the plaza is a marvelous experience, one I’d like to see again, and recommend to anyone looking for a very futuristic take on this age-old tradition.

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