One man's silent run with Pamplona's thundering bulls

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Sergio Colas and his father Txema Colas pose for a portrait during the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas uses sign language while having lunch with other deaf friends during the start of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas jokes with his father Txema (R) as his wife Alma and his brother Daniel (2nd L) look on while having lunch at Txema's home in Marriquiain, outside Pamplona, northen Spain July 7, 2016. A statue of San Fermin is seen on the window ledge. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas makes his way to the first bull run of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera
Sergio Colas (C) moves away from the path of an El Pilar fighting bull after falling at the entrance to the bullring during the seventh running of the bulls at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 13, 2011. Colas has been running with the bulls since he was fifteen years old. REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo
Sergio Colas (C), his daughter Alaia and wife Alma take part in the traditional "Chupinazo" rocket launch during the start of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas (R) holds hands with other runners after checking everyone ran safely after the first bull run of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas walks past revellers as he heads to take part in the first bull run of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas, who has been running with the bulls for 20 years, soaks up the sun while having lunch with friends during the start of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas runs ahead of the bulls during a crowded run at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas (3rd L) climbs on a fence to see the bulls coming along Estafeta Street during the third bull run of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera
A woman looks at Sergio Colas as he meets with other runners after a crowded bull run at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 10, 2016. His shirt got caught in the horn of a steer during the run and he ripped it to get loose while running. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas plays with his daughter Alaia during the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas takes a selfie with his wife Alma Sierra and their daughter Alaia as they take part in a procession in honour of San Fermin on the saint's day at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas (C) and other runners sit in a bookshop as they prepare for the first running of the bulls in the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
Sergio Colas communicates with his wife Alma via FaceTime so that they can read each others lips during the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Susana Vera 
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PAMPLONA, Spain, July 12 (Reuters) - Every summer Sergio Colas joins hundreds of other runners for Pamplona's annual bull-run but unlike them he cannot hear the roaring crowds or the bulls thundering through the winding streets of the Spanish town's medieval center.

Deaf from birth, Colas has to rely on the movement of the mass of people around him to complete the almost kilometer-long dash without being gored or trampled by the specially-bred bulls, which can weigh up to 650 kilograms.

Although some tell him he shouldn't run, the 35-year-old native of Pamplona says his deafness may even be an advantage as the din of the festival can distract runners from the danger bearing down upon them.

Over the past century 15 people have died in the San Fermin run and many are gored by the bulls' horns each year. Several Spaniards have already been killed in bull-runs elsewhere in the country this summer.

"The most important thing in the bull-run is what you see, and I see more than others do," said Colas, who this year celebrates his 20th year of taking part in the event.

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The San Fermin bull-run began as a religious festival in the Middle Ages and gained global fame following writer Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises."

With close to a million Spaniards and foreign revelers now cramming into the northern Spanish town of Pamplona every year for the nine-day event, Colas says he can no longer distinguish the vibrations caused by the bulls and those by the crowd.

"I used to be able to feel the vibration of the stampede and that of the bells of the steers," he told Reuters in an interview, referring to the tame, guiding bullocks which run alongside the bulls.

But now the sound of the hooves pounding on stone-laid streets is no longer a sure guide.

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Each year Colas begins in the same spot where, unable to hear the blast of the run's starter rocket, he climbs a street shop's security doors to see the bulls as they come charging towards him.

"I like it when the run goes very quickly because more gaps open up in the crowd and I can handle the speed of the bulls and have a cleaner sprint," he said.

Colas, who works at a local factory run by carmaker Volkswagen, performs one small ritual before the race. He takes a medallion which hangs around his neck and kisses the image of Saint Fermin, namesake of the festival.

When he ran for the first time at the age of 15, his mother, Begona, only found out when she happened to see a photo of him in a local newspaper.

Initially wary, she gradually came around to the idea as running with the bulls was a family tradition. His father, Txema, has been taking part for 40 years.

And for the moment at least, Colas has no plans to hang up his running shoes.

"When I'm in front of the bulls, I have so much adrenaline," he said. "This is why I keep running, because I love it."

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