The ‘run’ that’s really a pub crawl has made Headingley famous and boosted the local economy – but has it done so for all the wrong reasons?
The Otley Run sounds like some kind of annual weekend road race – but while the only form of exercise involves raising a glass to one’s lips, it’s a challenge few complete.
It is, of course, a pub crawl, but not just any pub crawl and confusingly it has nothing to do with Otley – its name being derived from the road which forms the backbone of the route participants wobble down.
To be fair, it does involve almost two miles of walking and considering the state most who attempt the feat are in by even half the distance, you could safely double that to take account of your typical drunken stagger.
The challenge is attempted by thousands (though mainly students) every year and tradition dictates it must be done in fancy dress, which is why those who live or pass through Headingley will not have failed to notice the rag-tag parade of badly dressed celebrity look-a-likes, cavemen (and women), police officers, doctors and whatever else happened to be left in the fancy dress shop at the time.
It makes for an interesting spectacle of an afternoon, as smartly-dressed commuters stare in a mixture of surprise, admiration and disgust at the hordes of partygoers thronging between queuing cars.
According to one set of rules, participants must drink a pint in each venue, then have a couple of doubles in the last (ladies may drink half-pints).
Participants are allowed two breaks when they can switch from pints to spirits – a ‘shotley run’ means downing shots instead of pints.
Some choose to run between pubs and those wanting to die an even quicker death down snakebite instead of beer.
No-one knows when the first Otley Run took place, as those who pioneered what is today a rite of passage for freshers were so drunk the morning after they forgot to make a note of the year and so its origins are lost in the collective amnesia common to anyone who actually manages to drink 13 pints in one night.
The ‘run’ itself varies, but in essence takes in a baker’s dozen of drinking establishments. After Woodies, drinkers move on to the Three Horseshoes, then the New Inn, Headingley Taps, the Arc, the Box, The Skyrack, The Original Oak, The Library, the Pack Horse, the Eldon, the Fenton and finally the Dry Dock.
Other pubs may also feature on the list – and who did and didn’t manage to make it to the Dry Dock is no doubt a frequent morning-after topic of discussion.