Matthew Todd

My Pamplona

Dave and I run a steep route these days, a thin strip of broken pavement cutting through thorny scrub brush well above the Karanga River. We run mostly in the quiet, nodding and greeting the mamas and the old men making their way home, occasionally chatting about our days.

A group of Masai men, whom we’ve never seen, also use the road for taking their cows up to the good pastureland above. We know this because of the dried (and drying) clumps caking the asphalt that make our going more than a little bit dicey.

But we also know this because yesterday we did see them—-thirty big cows with horns and humps, three men whistling behind and beside, all barreling down the hill right at us!

Dave and I got out of the way, nodding and greeting.

Then we continued uphill another five minutes before turning back for home. (Turning around is funny, because it’s never the relief you expect. “Four miles to go” is a much bigger deal than “it’s all downhill from here.”)

On the way back down, we caught up with the running cows, and this was the fun part: the man running in the back smiled and waved for us to overtake them, while at the same time whacking the back left cow with a stick to clear the chute for us. Dave and I accelerated as the cow pulled in, and we ran down the gauntlet with abandon, thorns on the left, cows on the right, broken pavement below.

Running in front of the herd, I imagined what it’s like for those guys who run with the bulls in Spain. It seems like it would be hard to turn around and bop one on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper without losing most of your speed—-a tricky value proposition.

I kind of hope we see them again today.

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