Pain, anguish, blisters, and diarrhea are some of the things you prepare for when running a marathon. One thing you’d never expect is to be chased by herd of stampeding cattle. But this is exactly what happened to me at last week’s Tucson Marathon.
I had just past the ten mile mark of the marathon and made the left hand turn onto the out and back road that led to the Biosphere 2 dome. My pace was steady, maybe even a little too fast – I didn’t want to burn out at the end. The ache in my left hamstring had calmed down over the last few miles, but I expected it to scream back to life during this uphill section of the course. After making the turn the course crossed a cattle guard that had been covered by plywood and then made a slow ascent to the turn-around point.
Something moving through the brush on the left side of the road caught my eye. A small herd of cattle was running alongside the road not twenty feet away. Exhilarated and slightly frightened by this revelation I continued running and tried to point them out to fellow runners.
“Hey,” I called out. “We’re running with the bulls!” They couldn’t seem to hear me.
Just then the lead bull made a quick right turn and came stampeding directly towards me. In a panic I increased to a sprint. The herd hit the pavement just a moment after I was out of the crossing zone. Breathing a great sigh of relief I turned my head to watch the stampede cross the road. Fortunately the gap between me and the next runner was wide enough to let the cows through without killing anyone. In all the excitement one of the bulls slipped and went skidding across the road causing a massive cow pileup. Then just like that, they were gone into the undergrowth.
I managed to regain focus and finished the marathon with a new personal record. I had expected pain and delirium, but I never expected to find myself running with the bulls.