Chicago Man Gored by Spanish Bull Would Do It Again

Author Bill Hillman gored in right leg after tripping in the roadway during Spain's Running of the Bulls

By Nesita Kwan
|  Thursday, Jul 10, 2014  |  Updated 11:53 AM CDT
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Bill HIllman, the author of How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona, was gored while running with the bulls in Pamplona. He tells NBC from his hospital bed in Spain that he's fine and eager to do it again.

Bill HIllman, the author of How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona, was gored while running with the bulls in Pamplona. He tells NBC from his hospital bed in Spain that he's fine and eager to do it again.

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Chicago Author Gored at Running of the Bulls

Bill Hillman isn't detered by being gored by a 1,500-pound animal. Neither are the Chicagoans who plan to run with the bulls over the weekend. Nesita Kwan reports.
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The Chicago co-author of the book "How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona" was gored Wednesday during the annual Running of the Bulls in the Spanish city, but even that hasn't deterred him.

Bill Hillman was gored in the right leg after tripping in the street and suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries after the horn missed slicing through a bone or major artery.

"I survived. I'm here, I'm alive," Hillman said from his hospital bed in Spain. "Getting gored isn't out of the ordinary for a runner."

Hillman co-wrote his book with John Hemingway, the grandson of writer Ernest Hemingway, who immortalized the event in his 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises," and the father of  Michael Hemingway, who was photographing the event and saw the accident happen.

"I feel like I've had an incredible experience," he said. 

Hillman's section of the book is a detailed guide through each stage of the 930-yard course from a holding pen to Pamplona's bull ring. He said he'd like to add more to the book after his experience. 

It offers tips on how to dive for safety when a bull goes "suelto" and separates from the pack. That's an especially dangerous moment when the lone bull loses its herding instinct and "sees all runners as predators," he wrote.

That's exactly what happened Wednesday.

British matador Alexander Fiske-Harrison, a friend who edited the book, said Hillmann was using a rolled-up newspaper to try to lure the lone bull away from others in the crowd, something expert runners do.

"He took it on and that's when it gored him," Fiske-Harrison said in a phone interview from Pamplona.

Hillmann has had close calls before. He writes in the book that he was nearly killed one year when he slipped in front of a bull.

Fiske-Harrison said Hillmann was in good spirits as he was being wheeled into surgery, "but that might be because he was on a lot of painkillers."

Later, the bull was killed along with the five others in the bullfight that follows the running.

"It was weird seeing the bull come out with my friend's blood still on the horn," Fiske-Harrison said.

Bill Hillmann grew up in the Rogers Park and Edgewater areas on Chicago's North Side and channeled his energy into boxing, becoming a Golden Gloves heavyweight champion for Chicago in 2002. Later, he turned to writing and just published a semi-autobiographical novel, "The Old Neighborhood," about coming of age in Chicago gang territory.

The injury appeared to be another incident in a string of misfortunes Hillman has endured. He posted on his Facebook page on Sunday that he'd recently misplaced his passport, laptop computer, and medication.

Revelers from around the world head to Pamplona every year to take part in some of the eight days of the running of the bulls glorified by Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises."

The incident occurred days before an American version of the event is set to take place in the Chicago area.

Around 4,000 thrill-seekers have signed up for The Great Bull Run at Hawthorne Race Course in south suburban Stickney Saturday. Event organizers say they won't be using the hyper-aggressive bulls used in the Spanish version.

"If they want to test themselves, not against simulated danger like a roller coaster or a horror movie, but against real danger. Staring at a 1,500-pound bull -- or 18 of them -- in the face," event organizer Rob Dickens said.

Unlike the Spanish version of the event, the Hawthorne bull run will incorporate a safety fence that participants can climb. Riders on horses will also follow the bull and can 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 running of the bulls is a danger to the animals.

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