Monday, October 08, 2007

Running of the Bulls 5k

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of joining about 400 runners for the Running of the Bulls 5k in Palo Alto, CA.

<-- One of the bulls, former Olympian Doug Consiglio

This race/walk has a fun format to go with the Pamplona-style theme – about 2 minutes after the start, five elite runners dressed in bull/cow costumes come chasing after the pack. Everyone wondered – could we finish before they caught us?!?

In the spirit of the event, I donned a Spanish matador costume. I figured if the bulls caught me, I could whip out my cape and let them charge me before pulling it away (Ole!). This was a fun run after all, and I always enjoy goofing around in costume just before Halloween. But I definitely wouldn’t want to be the next person to rent this costume. ;-)

(Jean Pommier and Matador Scott)

Before the race, some local coaches and elite athletes put on a kids track clinic. Joy Upshaw-Margerum, a coach for the Jack Rabbit Track Club for kids, performed the orientation before turning it over to some of the elites such as 3-time Olympian Robert Weir, Masters Champion Tim Dempsey, and Pole Vault Gold Medalist Kris Mack.

(Kids of all ages loved the Track Clinic)

Grace Upshaw, the 2007 National Long Jump Champion and a 2004 USA Olympic athlete, showed a bunch of kids the basic balancing and strength skills of long jumping, while Robert Weir and others showed a group how to do high kick drills. It was fun to watch (see videos below), and the kids were having a great time!

I ran into fellow ultrarunner Jean Pommier, who was fitting in one more quick warm up run before the International 20k in Paris next weekend. He lined up at the start with about a dozen serious-looking runners hoping to cash in on some of the prize money. The race announcers introduced the bulls and cows – 7-time All-American and Canadian Olympian Doug Consiglio, 5-time NCAA Champion Brand Houser, Olympian Kate O’Neill, and more. I got the feeling we were going to need more than 2 minutes!

(Bull Brad Houser with Cow Sally Houser and Calf Will Houser)

(The fastest cows on the planet!)

(Local cross country runners donning their Halloween gear)

At 9am, we were off and running down the streets of Palo Alto. The field quickly spread out, with the track junkies up front, joggers and strollers in the middle, walkers in the back, and kids everywhere in between. Some of the kids were putting their newly acquired track skills to work, and having no trouble keeping a fast pace. Within a couple of minutes, we were all turning our heads to look for the bulls.

I hit the first mile in about six minutes, and could see the front runners already a good two blocks ahead. So far, no bulls. I was beginning to wonder if “matador” was Spanish for “master of chafing”, since this costume was already starting to rub me raw. No worries though – at only 5k in distance, this race would be over before the coffee I left at the starting line got cold.

(Look out! Here comes a bull...)

Mile two came in about 12 minutes even, I had heard the shouting behind me saying “bulls are coming!”. Before I could whip off my cape, a brown streak went charging by at full speed. That was Bolata Asmeron, a top-ranked 5k runner who just ran a 13:40 last Saturday, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised! I stopped to get some pics of the next set of bulls, but they were a ways back, so I got back in the race.

(Grab the bull by the horns and RUN!)

I picked up the pace along with two stroller-pushing dads duking it out for “first stroller” division. Before we knew it, the finish line was in site. I crossed in 20:22, about 34th place. My matador costume had seen better days (and smelled oh-so-peachy), but was much improved when they presented me with the cowbell finishers medal. What a great idea! The park sounded like a barnyard and everyone clanked their way through chutes to the root beer float stand.

(Bulls and Matadors, friends at the finish!)

It was 9:20am and my race was already done! That went by fast. Some of the runners had finished fast enough to cool down already, such as winner Tommy Schmitz (15:30), Women’s winner Kris Passo (17:45), and Jean Pommier who got 5th (16:47). It seemed odd to be finished so early in the day - such a change from the all-day affairs of most ultras! But this gave us all plenty of time to get to know the neighbors, have some snacks, and meander on down to the Palo Alto Farmers Market for breakfast. I guess that’s what “fun runs” are all about – short and pleasant enough that fun is guaranteed! Throw in a costume, and you’ll end up with smiles that last all day.

(Sophie thought the cowbell was the best race shwag ever!)

Sophie enjoyed the cowbell tremendously, and we spent the rest of the day checking out the pumpkin patch. All good fun! My thanks to the Race Director and volunteers for putting on a great race!

- SD


  1. never heard of that race before but it sounds fun and is a clever idea!!

  2. So, you just HAD a matador costume lying around did you?!?

    Thanks for getting in the spirit of the race. We hope to have you again next year!

  3. I was wondering who the matador was as he ran past me on Park Blvd, and now he's been unmasked. :) Nice race report, and great run!

  4. Enjoyed the report and the Eric Clifton-esque matador tights. Will you be running the race again in 2016 with Sophie? :)

    See you at HK, where we can return to "normalcy" and finish later in the day!

  5. I love how the bulls are recorded in the results. Did you get a special beat the bull sticker or something? - Jon

  6. Man what a fun race. The bull and cow costumes looked like they would be hot to run in. Sweaty speedy bovines!

  7. OK wow those are tight...(nice).

    That looks like a great race, Pommier is just FAST!

    Great post.

    Will G.

  8. Sphie is growing so fast...

  9. Great costume... however I gotta say the Bull, cow and baby cow all together are my favorite.

    I try to hit every costumed race in my area... they are super fun.


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