Pamplona bull horns into an adventure trip

Michael Lenahan sought to "live life to the fullest," his father said. He and his brother ended up in a hospital after being gored.

Posted: July 14, 2007

Michael Lenahan, a Northeast Philadelphia man and 2005 University of Pennsylvania graduate, has learned the hard way about the vagaries of life.

After recovering from testicular cancer late last year, Lenahan vowed to take an annual adventure trip starting this summer - when he would run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

"He decided he wanted to live life to the fullest because you don't know how much time you have," his father, Larry Lenahan, 53, of West Lake, Ohio, said yesterday.

Michael Lenahan, 23, a sales executive for General Mills Inc. in Dresher, and his brother Lawrence, 26, an Air Force captain, decided to make the trip together.

They almost had made it through the entire run Thursday morning when a bull that broke loose from the pack gored both of them. Michael was struck in his right leg and Lawrence in his left buttock.

Both brothers were in the Hospital de Navarra in Pamplona. Their conditions could not immediately be determined, and the family was awaiting word from doctors there.

Michael's girlfriend, Erica Messina, of Stamford, Conn., said that she had spoken with him and that "he's in better spirits today, but still doesn't know when he's going to be released."

Added Lenahan's father: "He said they're big animals and when they're coming at you, there's nothing you can do."

The bull-running event, part of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, gained worldwide fame in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. Thirteen people have been killed in the event since record-keeping began in 1924.

Larry Lenahan said both brothers - the family includes another son and a daughter - embraced outdoor activities at an early age.

Both are licensed pilots - Lawrence, nicknamed Sean, is an Air Force Academy graduate - and love to canoe, ski, scuba-dive and participate in sports. Michael briefly played varsity soccer at Penn.

"When all the kids were about 2 years old, I took them all skiing. I'd go on a black - we only do black and double-black - trail and go without poles and hold him in my arms while I skied down," Larry Lenahan said. "I think that helped them get used to it."

His daughter, Shannon, said her brothers have always been close.

"It was originally Sean's idea to do the running of the bulls. He's always wanted to. It's been a dream of his," said Shannon, 22.

Larry Lenahan said Shannon might go to Spain to help her brothers get home because he has engagements this weekend with his youngest child, Keven, whose 15th birthday was yesterday.

In the fall, Sean plans to leave the Air Force to attend Penn's Wharton School. He and his brother hope to live together in Center City, family members said.

A supervisor in Michael Lenahan's office, Steve Mayle, released a statement that said: "Michael is an adventuresome employee who certainly takes life by the horns. We don't want to poke fun at his situation, but we do wonder if he ate his Wheaties for breakfast that morning."

Contact staff writer Katie Stuhldreher at 215-854-2601 or

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