Estimated 700 runners compete in Arizona bull run

PHOENIX - It's not Pamplona, Spain. And these aren't the super aggressive fighting bulls known to gore or kill those who dare to get in their way.

But more than an estimated 700 willing runners ran for their lives Saturday in the annual running of the bulls in this small Arizona town, around an hour north of Phoenix.

Cave Creek played host to a safer version of the storied sprints through Pamplona but with less aggressive bulls. Instead, the event used bulls who are rodeo animals and whose horns have been blunted for the occasion.

Runners, who sign long release forms, already knew the route -- and the location of the escape exits. Participants also signed a medical form saying they have not had any booze or drugs before the run.

But at least eight people were injured during the event, with six of them suffering minor injuries and two that had to be transported to the hospital promoter Phil Immordino said.

James Brunhuber, of Maricopa, Ariz., told the Arizona Republic that a man was hospitalized after a bull struck him in the abdomen and sent him into a fence. "His injury came probably not from the bull, but from the fence," he said.

Despite the safety risks, Immordino said people participate "because it's different. It's an adrenaline rush."

The event returned to Cave Creek after Immordino brought the run to this tiny town in the Sonoran Desert last year. But the event drew fire from animal rights groups over animal cruelty charges, and some town officials wanted Immordino to increase his insurance policy. An online petition opposing the event drew thousands of signatures.

Prior to last year's event, Immordino had organized similar runs three times, in 1998 and 1999 in the resort town of Mesquite, Nev., and in 2002 in Scottsdale, Ariz. No one was killed or seriously injured in any of those runs.

Immordino said this year the bull run was promoted as the newest extreme sport. The top runner will earn a $1,000 prize and the title of champion bull runner. Judges will determine the winner based on how close the runner sprints with the bulls.

The event began Saturday with scheduled runs of 12 bulls every hour. In total, 24 bulls were involved in runs and each were rotated out.

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