Running down a street trying to dodge a giant rolling ball is much safer than running away from a pack of angry, charging bulls with horns, one would think.
But it didn’t turn out that way for one man who was seriously injured over the weekend during the annual “running of the balls” in the Spanish town of Mataelpino north of Madrid.
Six years ago, when the town was short on money, it decided it couldn’t afford the traditional running of the bulls that had long highlighted its annual festival, Business Insider reported last year.
So Mayor Javier de los Nietos came up with the cheaper alternative: Replace the bulls with a 10-foot-wide, 440-pound polystyrene ball called a “boloencierro.”
The ball rolls down the mountain town’s narrow, roller-coaster streets while people run in front of it. Think Indiana Jones running from that giant boulder.
On the slopes, the ball can reach speeds of up to 18 miles an hour.
“You feel very small, and you have to keep your wits about you, because if the boulder cracks you on the back, it can push you against the walls or onto the ground,” the mayor told one Spanish newspaper.
Animal-rights groups cheered the idea because it didn’t involve bulls. PETA loved it so much it offered to cover the costs of towns in Spain and Portugal that replaced their bull runs with ball runs, Business Insider reported.
The event scored the town international publicity. The crowds get bigger every year; more than 700 people participated last year. A handful of other towns in Spain have started similar events.
But things got scary this year. According to El Pais, the man hit by the ball on Saturday remains hospitalized in stable condition after the ball smashed into him and left him flattened on the street.
Another runner hit by the ball on Friday suffered fractured ribs and was discharged from the hospital after 24 hours, Spanish media reported.
El Pais reports that the town is considering new security measures, including installing padding on some of the curved portions of the route.
“It is a spectacle something different to the bulls (as well as cheaper), in which a very large ball is used, with risks,” the mayor told El Mundo.
“The event is advertised as harmless and does not run any risk, but it is not. It’s a big ball and you have to have the same precautions as in any other risky activity.”