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Two injured in Pamplona on first day of running of the bulls

By Al Goodman, CNN Madrid Bureau Chief
One runner is caught during the San Fermin Festival bull run, on July 07, 2010, in Pamplona, northern Spain.
One runner is caught during the San Fermin Festival bull run, on July 07, 2010, in Pamplona, northern Spain.
  • 1 Austrialian, 1 Spaniard taken to hospital
  • Run lasts 2 minutes 23 seconds
  • TV images show many runners making hard falls
  • Daily run continues until July 14

Madrid, Spain (CNN) -- Hundreds of runners braved their luck Wednesday on the first day of the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona -- but just two men, an Australian and a Spaniard, were taken to hospital afterward with injuries, the Navarra regional government said.

It was considered a thrilling but safe start to the annual tradition in Pamplona, which has tallied 14 deaths since record-keeping began in 1924, including the fatal goring of a Spanish man last year, and thousands of injuries.

The run in Pamplona started 400 years ago and became popular worldwide after author Ernest Hemingway wrote about it in the 1920s in his book "The Sun Also Rises," also published under the title "Fiesta."

It is now broadcast live across Spain by state television TVE, which estimated there were more than a thousand runners.

An 18-year-old Australian man from Melbourne was taken to hospital with various injuries sustained on the narrow street that descends into the bullring.

And a Spanish man, 20, from Zaragoza also went to hospital with an eye injury sustained on a street almost halfway through the run, the Navarra regional government said on its website.

Both were initially listed in stable condition but under close observation, the website said.

It took the six bulls and a pack of tame steers, which help guide the bulls, a full 17 seconds to emerge from the corrals after the opening rocket was fired to signal the start of the run.

But the pack then moved swiftly through the cobblestone streets of old Pamplona along the 825-meter (902-yard) course to the bullring, where the bulls will die later in the day in a bullfight.

The run lasted just 2 minutes and 23 seconds and the bull and steer pack stayed mainly together, which long-time observers say usually means a safer run -- unlike when a bull or bulls get separated, frightened and may charge directly into the runners.

Television images showed mostly men dressed in the traditional white outfits with red handkerchiefs, but also a small number of women, and even one man with a football helmet, which is prohibited but was apparently not noticed by the hundreds of police officers who eject, before the run, people carrying cameras or who are drunk.

The aim is safety, so that runners can focus on the run. Television images showed numerous runners making hard falls to the pavement, tripping over other runners or colliding with the bulls.

The daily run continues for eight days, through July 14, at 8 a.m. (2 a.m. ET), and is the highlight of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona that attracts hundreds of thousands to the non-stop fiesta.