Headingley's Otley Run is as popular as ever

Depending on who you talk to, Headingley's Otley Run involves any-where between 14 and 23 bars – not that numbers matters much after about eight pints, as people normally lose most of their cognitive and motor functions.

It's the drinker's equivalent of an iron-man endurance test and, while fancy dress is optional, it seems to be worn by 90 per cent of participants.


Ordinary passers-by cannot have failed to notice the clattering gaggles of rabble-rousing misfits romping haphazardly along the pavement, looking something like a cross between the cast of Dr Who and Up Pompeii.

The route begins at Woodies Ale House on Otley Road in Far Headingley and contin-ues into Headingley itself, where it doglegs down North Lane to take in The Arc and Headingley Taps, ending over a mile later at the Dry Dock on Woodhouse Lane.

According to one set of rules (the origin of which is unclear) participants must drink at least one pint of beer in each venue and then have a couple of doubles in the final pub, just in case you were in danger of not having a hangover the following morning.

The rules also state ladies can drink half-pints but, dauntingly, must down a full pint in the last pub.

Most of those taking part are students or stag and hen party members.

For the students it has become a rite of passage, an event that marks entry to university life.

"It's a great social occasion if you've just moved to Leeds and you don't know many people," said one undergraduate. "It's a brilliant ice-breaker."

A member of Leeds University's Students' Union, who asked not to be named, confirmed the Otley Run was "very popular among students" then started rambling about health and safety.

But look a little closer and you'll find it's not just students doing the run but profess-ionals in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Computer worker and freelance photographer Adrian Wilson, 35, has completed the run a number of times with a band of friends, among them his 65-year-old father Chris, a retired plumber.

He said: "It's quite a challenge. Everyone starts off feeling a bit nervous, because you have 14 pubs to get round and you don't know how you're going to fare.

"Every year we get together and go somewhere, last year it was Liverpool.

"When I told my friends we had a 14-bar pub crawl in Leeds they jumped at the chance. We were outside Woodies at 10.30am. It was just after 24-hour licensing came in and it was frosty out. They made us wait outside until about ten-to before they let us in.

"The good thing about it is there's a group of about three or four pubs, then a bit of a walk, then another group, then another walk, so you have time to come round. We finished up in the Dry Dock at about 7pm. I felt a little worse for wear the next day but not too bad."

Software tester Siouxie Trenaman, 32, from Armley, attempted the run at the weekend with members of the Leeds Volleyball Club, of which she is a member of the women's second team.

She said: "We went in fancy dress and probably got about halfway. We had people dressed as a cat, Supergirl, Cruella De Vil, a vampire and others. It was fun to do.

"In some pubs at the top of Headingley three-quarters of the people in there were in fancy dress."

So what do the landlords of the establishments on the route make of it all?

"I think the main reason people do it is not to get blind drunk but for the social aspect of it," said one particularly diplomatic publican. "It's the fun element of dressing up and having a laugh."

Just in case, there is a code of conduct for Otley Run revellers. Pub landlords have agreed anyone who is more than a little inebriated will be shown the door.