JOPLIN, Mo. —
Each participant in the Running of the Bulls had a different strategy.
For Jason Shelfer, of Carthage, the strategy was to make it to the finish line.
“Last year, I wanted to avoid the bulls and I ran too fast,” he said before the race began. “This year, I’m just going to set my pace and still be able to breathe, hopefully.”
Melanie Miner’s strategy was a bit tougher — and a bit more physical.
“Charge fast,” said Miner, who also goes by the name Sassy Sparkles in the Mo-Kan Roller Girlz. “Don’t fall.”
Nearly 90 people ran Thursday night in the second Running of the Bulls, a fundraiser organized during the Third Thursday Art Walk in downtown Joplin. As part of the run, members of the Mo-Kan Roller Girlz, a roller derby team, added horns to their costumes, armed themselves with foam ball bats and other relatively harmless weapons, and chased the runners down a five-block route along Main Street.
Lynn Simmons, also known as Southern “Belle”-istik in the Roller Girlz, summed up her job as a “bull” in simple terms.
“They start running; we start whacking,” she said. “I can’t think of a nicer way to put it. Hit hard and come back for more.”
Participants were instructed to wear red and white, the traditional colors associated with the San Fermin Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain, from which this event draws its inspiration. Prizes were awarded for costumes, so many runners dressed up their athletic wear with red and white accessories.
Kori Newby, of Pittsburg, who was dressed in white and wearing a mustache that matched the color of her hair, called the run “glorious” after crossing the finish line.
Joked her fiancé, William Grandy, almost simultaneously: “It was terrifying.”
Grandy, who was sporting a (fake) mullet and mustache with a red bandanna tied around his head, estimated he was whacked by the Roller Girlz at least 10 times while running.
“We just try to dodge them the best we can, but they were waiting for us at the end,” he said. “They came swinging at us.”
Grandy said he and Newby came to Joplin on Thursday night specifically for the Running of the Bulls, which they had been anticipating all month.
“I hope this keeps growing,” he said. “This is great.”
Sam Smith, of Joplin, who added a red cowboy hat and white face mask to his attire, said he received “countless” hits from the Roller Girlz before slowing his pace after two blocks.
“After a while, you don’t even know because you’re numb,” he said.
But it’s all in fun, he said.
“They do a great job raising money for a good cause,” he said.
Proceeds from the Running of the Bulls will go to the Ronald McDonald House and Joplin Area Catholic Schools. The amount raised from the event was not immediately available Thursday night.