Daredevils Race in Chicago-Area Bull Run

Hawthorne Race Course hosted the first Chicago-area version of the bull run

Saturday, Jul 12, 2014  |  Updated 5:23 PM EDT
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Chicago-area thrill seekers got a taste of Spain Saturday at the first local staging of

Chicago-area thrill seekers got a taste of Spain Saturday at the first local staging of "The Great Bull Run."

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Organizer Explains "The Great Bull Run"

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Chicago-area daredevils tested out their speed Saturday in the first local staging of The Great Bull Run.

The Americanized and tamer version of Pamplona's famous Running of the Bulls took place at Hawthorne Race Course in south suburban Stickney.

Equipped with red handkerchieves that read "The Great Bull Run" the many enthusiasts gathered at the course for their taste of Spain.

"Here we are the courageous few," the group chanted before the event. "To test ourselves in honor of the bulls. We hope to run and survive the day. Yell with us now and say Ole."

The event drew a large crowd of spectators and runners, some in costumes, on the soggy Saturday.

According to spokeswoman Bonni Pear, 4,000 runners and 2,000 spectators pre-registered for the event. Pear also said a large number of "walk-ups" also attended the event Saturday.

"It's a legendary event. Everyone knows about it; it's a bucket list item. But it's the danger that draws people to it. People want to test themselves. They want to see, 'Do I have what it takes to go out there with these massive animals and run alongside of them?'" organizer Rob Dickens said.

Dickens says he came up with the idea after he tried to go to the Pamplona event in 2012 but found traveling to Spain prohibitive.

"You have to book everything about a year in advance, and it costs about $4,000 a person for your flights and all that. So that's when I decided, why not bring something similar here to the U.S. to make it more accessible?" Dickens said.

Event organizers say they wouldn't be using the kind of hyper-aggressive bulls that run in the Pamplona version. The Hawthorne bull run also incorporated a safety fence that participants can climb, and riders on horses will follow the bulls and lasso the animals in case one gets too aggressive.

Last year, officials from the Humane Society of the United States requested an investigation into what they called an "unlicensed event," and complained the event posed a danger to the animals.

But Dickens says that worry is unfounded.

"The federal government did look into what we were doing and said there's nothing to see here. Basically, we don't hit the bulls to make them run, or shock them, or do anything else. It's their natural stampede instinct to run when they see one of their fellows running," Dickens said.

The Hawthorne event falls days after a Chicago author was injured during the Pamplona event.

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