PETERSBURG -- Thousands packed Virginia Motorsports Park on Saturday, not to see horsepower on display, but to see a different kind of animal. Pamplona came to Petersburg with the Great Bull Run.
"It's a lot cheaper than going to Spain," said Matt Penn, who came from Washington D.C. to run with the bulls.
"It was a little bit scary at first," said Penn's friend Tony Muniz, from Raleigh, N.C., "but we had a gameplan: Run fast, and don't fall. And we accomplished our mission."
"You're lookin, 'Where are the bulls? Where are the bulls?'" Penn said. "You turn your head for a second, and there they are. You have about three seconds to react. So it's definitely a good rush."
Modeled after Spain's famous Running of the Bulls, the Great Bull Run is the first of its kind in the United States. Virginia was the first stop for the event.
"It's very difficult for a lot of people in the U.S. to go over to Spain to do the running of the bulls there," said Rob Dickens, co-founder of the Great Bull Run. "I personally have been trying to do it for the last three years and have never been able to actually make it happen. And if I can't make it happen, there are probably thousands of people out there who also can't make it happen."
The concept was tweaked to make it safer than Spain's. Still, organizers say two runners were taken to the hospital with concussion-like symptoms.
Muniz and Penn said they came out after lots of preparation on the treadmill. When asked how it compares to the treadmill, Muniz said it was better. Penn echoed that.
"There's no fear of dying when you're on the treadmill," Penn said. "With this, when you see those bulls come, it really kicks you into third gear there."
Petersburg may not be Pamplona, but on Saturday it was close enough.
"We're just thrill seekers. Anything for a good time," Muniz said. "Never turn down a memory."
For Muniz and Penn, and thousands of others, it was about grabbing the bull by the horns. Just not literally - because that was against the rules.
Saturday's stop in Petersburg kicked off a ten-city tour for the Great Bull Run. Co-founder Rob Dickens said they will be back in Virginia next year.
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