SAN ANTONIO -- With Rage Against the Machine blaring through a pair of loud speakers, a herd of bulls kicked up their hoofs for a stomping parade.
All the while a clan of anxious homo sapiens, adorned with blood-red bandannas, used their sweaty palms to grip the bars of a steel fence just a few yards ahead. All that lied in front of the mammals was an enclosed stretch of grass, not wider that the length of a car.
One glance at the herd of bulls hurtling towards them and the rag-tag pack of brave souls dispersed quicker than mist out of an air-freshener.
No, it's not Pamplona, Spain. It's the backyard version of 'Running of the Bulls' that lured a few hundred daredevils to the Cool River Ranch in Martindale, Texas, located just outside San Marcos.
Joe Flanagan, organizer of The Texas Bull Run, said people come from all over to run on the ranch, mostly because traveling outside the country is not necessarily the cheapest endeavor.
"I actually came here just for the bull run," said Ronald Vilca who works for a television station in New York. "My buddy, he lives in San Antonio. He invited me and I figured, 'This is a lot cheaper than Spain. So why not?' I mean, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
For most, it was their first time. But after the adrenaline got pumping, several first-timers eagerly lined up for the next round of bulls. And there was a run almost every 20 minutes. It was nuts -- take it from me, I ran twice!
"We did three runs," said Vilca. "The first one was the scariest, I think. But the third one was the most dangerous because my buddy actually ended up falling."
It's a fun sprint, but the scramble at the start can be dangerous, especially when the bull gets close enough that one can see the sweat on its leather snout. The herd is unpredictable; one second it's meandering, one blink and the pack is gunning full speed ahead.
"I ran pretty far back on the first one," said John Hernandez of San Antonio, Vilca's friend. "Second run, got a little closer. Third run, I got really close. On the third run I fell, hit the ground pretty hard. First thing I did was get up and look back to see where the bulls were. I was alright though, man. It was a rush."
Another man was not so fortunate. He took a dive just inches in front of the stampede. He was trampled by a few bulls who left more than just dusty hoof prints on his back. Thankfully, one of the larger bulls took a long lunge over the man's tumbling body, sparing him from serious injury.
When the announcer asked if he was alright, the man gave a thumps up. Cheers erupted.
In fact, the entire experience was reminiscent of a pep rally -- a pub run, really -- except runners weren't allowed to be inebriated. That didn't prevent them from being high on life, though. Many wore jeans and T-shirts with GoPro cameras attached to themselves. Some were bare-chested and in basketball shorts. Still, others wore dresses -- particularly the men -- and themed accessories, like fake mustaches, ponchos and bulls-eyes.
The experienced herders, however, wore light body armor.
For what it's worth, some of the bulls' horns were filed down for safety, as is common with rodeo bulls. But that doesn't stop one's fight-or-flight response from kicking in when the sound and sight of a dozen storming bulls rattles closer and closer.
"This is pretty much the craziest thing I've done," said Vilca. "It was kind of on my bucket list. So, it's kind of cool we got to scratch that one off."
"I've never done anything like this," said Hernandez. "I would definitely do it again though, for sure."
One short drive and a waiver later, that could be a definite possibility. Flanagan has expressed interest in making The Texas Bull Run a reoccurring thrill.