Almería is a pretty little town of extreme heat at the eastern end of the Andalusian coastline. I first came here last year during their feria of the Virgin of the Sea, in order to meet with the greatest American bull-runner Joe Distler. ‘Buffalo’ Bill Hillmann and I, the young pretender to Joe’s throne – a Chicago Golden Gloves winning boxer and Chicago Tribune freelancing writer – came to ask for some advice about the encierros, ‘bull-runs’ of Cuéllar. Less famous, and less spoiled, less drunken and less glorious than Pamplona – all in all, less ‘Hemingway’ – I wrote it up for the Financial Times, as Bill did for the Tribune, both of us using photos by my old friend Nicolás Haro (who took the black and white photos for my book on my time as a torero, ‘bullfighter’, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2011 shortlisted Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight.)
As a result of our writing and running… well… if I’m honest, as a result of their need for tourism, Bill, Nicolás and I have been awarded a prize by the town which, of course, we have to go an collect in person. So, I thought I’d recreate my pilgrimage, coming to sit at the feet of Don José Distler once again. Not least because he didn’t come to Pamplona this year, breaking a tradition of running all eight daily encierros there every year for 45 years straight! (My own adventures in Pamplona this year were of minor interest, the crowds being so thick that the only day I got truly close to the bulls I was so surprised and admiring of the pulse and surge of jet black toro bravo beside me that I failed to see the man in front of me trip and fall, bringing me down. So I was trampled by man an animal alike until I rolled clear to the side of the street and was yanked to my feet by none other than John Hemingway. I was also pulled up by our friend Graeme Galloway, who runs the Pamplona Posse, but that is not quite so serendipitous a namedrop as the man whose grandfather brought the crowds who trampled me in the first place.)
Joe is, like all truly wild men, also a creature of traditions and habits. Read on by clicking here.