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The Otley Run - Pub Crawl in Leeds

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by Andy Woolfoot (subscribe)
Hi, my name is Andy Woolfoot. I'm an award-winning newspaper reporter living in my home town of Leeds.
Published August 15th 2012
Otley Run fancy dress
Who can you recognise in this group of Otley Runners?

In most cities, the sight of Duffman, The Jolly Green Giant and some Smurfs all staggering down the road would draw quite a lot of attention on a Saturday afternoon. However one of Leeds' longest-standing and proudest traditions has seen this become not just a regular occurrence but an expected spectacle.

I'm talking of course about the Otley Run, a 2 mile pub crawl taking in around 18 pubs on Otley Road depending on the various routes.

For decades the boozathon, also known as the Headingley Mile, has been a staple of locals wanting to mark birthdays/stag dos in beer-drenched revelry, but in the last 10 years it has become a rite of passage with students who gleefully compete with each other to see how can wear the most outlandish, hilarious and often wholly impractical fancy dress costumes they can muster.

Not a weekend goes by without several groups taking on this student Bucket List challenge and it's not uncommon to see several at once on a Saturday or even solitary groups on a weekday afternoon during term-time.

Otley Runners
Otley Runners on the move

The aim is of course to consume one drink in each pub along the route and due to the sheer number of drinking holes involved it's recommended to start in the early afternoon, say 2pm.

The Otley Run can be done casually or you can choose to observe a strict set of agreed upon rules. That is if you're the sort of person who likes your fun to have rules I know I am, then here is a brief rundown of some of the historical ones.

Time Keeper - The more organised groups will appoint a Time Keeper, basically a little Hitler-type who will have a whistle around their neck. The Time Keeper decides how long the group spends in each establishment, when they blow the whistle, everyone must down their drinks and move on to the next pub.

Grenadier One person is appointed Grenadier and when they shout 'grenade', everyone must hit the deck. The last to lie down must finish their drink according to the 'rules' section of the Wikipedia entry for 'Otley Run' which I've just looked up. Although I must confess I worked in one of the pubs on the run for quite some time and never once observed any group involve themselves in this twatish behaviour.

Gentleman's Rules Perennial drinking game variants such as no pointing, no swearing, left hand drinking etc. Any of the basic drinking forfeits which you will no doubt have encountered at parties before are generally acceptable.

Eating is Cheating A hearty meal before you set out on the quest will usually prevent this argument breaking out between the famished and the hardcore drinkers of your group later on. Of course many of these places serve food anyway so it shouldn't really be a problem fitting in a bite to eat let's bear in mind that you are attempting to consume more than a dozen drinks here.

Woodies Ale House
Woodies is the first pub on the Otley Run

There are several variations of the route but most agree it begins at Woodies in far Headingley and finishes at The Dry Dock on the outskirts of the town centre.

However, there are a few pubs which can be included if you wish to make it a tougher challenge these are the ones off the main road but within 100 yards such as The Arc and Trio on North Lane.

So there you go, you'll never be at a loose end on a Bank Holiday weekend again. Just don't all of you dress up as Where's Wally everyone does that and you and you're friends are cool right?
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Why? One of Leeds' longest-standing and proudest traditions
Where: Leeds
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