Andy gets rigged with GoPros galore in the home base above La Curva
At about 6-1 and 200 thickly muscled pounds, Andy seems big for someone who used to fly hundreds of feet through the air on a dirt bike for a living. This also makes him big for someone planning to run on bulls' horns four days in a row while a team of 15 or so films his every movement. At least he'll be eminently recognizable due to the green track jacket he's been outfitted with, and even more so due to the thick, curly mullet flopping over his shoulders. But there's zero need for the cameras to even find said mullet if he's not thoroughly in the midst of the action
His first day, despite literally having Dennis at his side, Andy encounters the same problem as any first-time runner amidst a chaos of humanity and 8000 pounds of charging beast: not having any idea what the fuck to do. He never gets on the horns, but still turns in a run that most novice mozos would consider the best of their lives. This isn't enough for the ad, which needs him on the horns to be as effective and absurd as the Hotels.com team wants. Luckily it's not nearly enough for Andy either. This is a man who twice swam 55+ feet under four feet of ice on lake in Utah -- the second time because someone lost the original footage, the first for basically no reason at all. He's broken 45 bones ("of course not counting fingers and toes"), had three knee and one achilles surgery, and suffered at least 22 concussions. When you say "jump," Andy says "off what?
The next day, on a "practice" run that's luckily being filmed anyway, Andy gets on the horns, then off them barely in time to avoid a goring through the lower right back. "I'm pretty sure if I hadn't sucked my gut in at the last second, he would've had me good" he grins before bracing as the team tears off the thick, super-sticky tape securing his deftly concealed shockproof GoPro HD sport cameras -- Pamplona police will do not-nice things to to if they find you on-course with a camera, or drunk, for that matter. He's seemingly more afraid of the tape removal than the bulls intent on doing the same to his spleen.
While sucking down a can of San Miguel beer at 8:30am, he catches himself on the TV highlights. He was right, the bull's left horn missed him at La Curva by an inch at most. After spending about a half-hour on the phone with his wife, who will give birth to their first daughter just days after he returns to the US, he puts his arm around his mother, who -- once the all of the bulls passed -- shot down the stairway from the apartment the production team is camping out in, found Andy, and ran into the Plaza del Toros with him and the final steers. It's her 60th birthday.
The third day, it's full-on Andy time. The whole team is ready to go full-speed, especially him. He gets on the horns outside Town Hall and stays there as he motors down Mercaderes as fast as his mullet's wind-resistance will allow. (Another grinning, beer-in-hand post-run quip: "My buddies were all confused when I got this gig. They were like, 'Hey man, that's really great, but shouldn't you have told them tell them you don't know how to RUN?'" Most of the production team laughs. A few look concerned.) iPhone out, he books the room. His wrist-mounted GoPro captures it. He pulls off to the right side of the course, hops a fence teeming with sangria-splashed human ivy, and jogs to the famed La Perla hotel, where the cute woman behind the desk displays the keys waiting for him as he says his funny lines in Spanish. Aside from a couple on-course intro shots he'll handle over the next few days, the ad is complete.
In the apartment basecamp's kitchen, Andy and Dennis debrief while eating a highly non-Spanish stromboli that's been sitting in the oven for an indeterminate amount of time. "Man, I saw the highlights, and I was the best out there today. Nobody was doing what I was doing." He's not bragging, just amped, and deservedly so. He's also right. But this is where him and Dennis -- who himself is nursing a seriously cut and banged-up knee from a rare fall that morning, luckily the worst injury sustained in his bull-running career -- diverge.
They're both incredibly good at this: Dennis because of his litheness, experience, and focus, and Andy because his cognitive and physical faculties somehow accelerate when most men just want to fling themselves through the window of a churro shop. The switches in our brains, the on/offs we frantically flail at upon realizing things just got very bad? Andy doesn't have those. Or, his circuits have been irreparably frayed by years of racing motorcycles at their absolute limit, and sprinting trucks through raw and unpredictable dessert in the Baja 1000, and, again, getting pulled in trashcans at 61mph as the plastic bottom visibly melts away, fast. That fraying, though, couldn't be more beneficial in this situation. A single doubt about whether or not he could pull it off, a single flinch and moment of "why?", is the difference between slamming stromboli in the kitchen and that bull's horn slamming into his back at La Curva.
Dennis has this same ability, but his outlook on the run itself couldn't be more divergent. In his years of preparing for and creating Chasing Red, he dove right into the deep end of the bull-running culture, while Andy -- since he's only been here four days -- still sits on the side of the pool with a Mai Tai and his feet in barely the water. All told, Dennis has spent months of his life in Pamplona, and visited the ranches that raise the bulls, and is close with many mozos who have participated in runs in the countryside towns where hundreds of other, much smaller encierros occur over the course of the year. (He estimates that if you time it right and your body/Peugeot doesn't break down, on right right days you can run in four or five different encierros in different towns.
Before the first rocket is fired, Clancey (black shirt) gives some last-second words of advice to our terrified writer, who totally ran with the bulls much worse than anyone else in this story.
When achingly but straightforwardly recounting the details of a top runner who got gored non-fatally a few years ago, Dennis stops himself mid-sentence: "One of the best runners on Estafeta, one of the bes... I'm sorry. A very fine runner, a very brave and noble runner..." This remarkably talented and accomplished man can't be the best runner, because to Dennis and David and many other Spaniards, there is no best runner. The runners don't compete with one another. They don't attempt to best one another, or even best the bulls, the noble and somewhat godlike animal Spanish runners are just respectfully overjoyed to be in the presence of. Dennis doesn't want to be the best because he doesn't believe anyone can be. Andy firmly believes he was the best, and considering he couldn't rely on experience and time-ingrained knowledge, if he didn't believe that, he might be dead right now. They're two extremely different outlooks, and they both worked wonderfully