Leeds’s own Otley Run is ultimate in student initiation

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One of the most interesting traditions students in Leeds have is the Otley Run.

And with 60,000 plus students flooding back into the city this month, reporter Abigail Miller decided to have a look at this famous tradition for CityBuzz.

Surviving students say “You’ll get more drunk than you’ve ever been in your life” but we chat to the people on the other side of the bar along the epic pub crawl which covers 18 pubs over four miles with the only rule being you have to have a drink in each one.

Former student Giulia Crouch said: “If you make it all the way to the end you’re basically a legend.”

Owners of Strawbs, Kevin and Yvette Clarke, said: “We’ve been around for 35 years, longer than a lot of the pubs on the Otley run.

“We think they’re brilliant, really like them. They’re good for business and always funny.

“Because we are the second to last bar, when people get to us they’ve either missed some pubs or not had a drink in every one, or they have eaten something or can really take a drink.”

Mrs Clarke added: “The number one thing for people doing the Otley run is to be polite and smile at the bar staff.”

Carly Pederson works at Skyrack and said: “When the students are here, we get three or four a night. On the weekends they all kind of run together and you can’t tell how many separate groups there are.

“Otley runs are a massive part of our business, so we do rely on them to survive. But, at the same time, it can be incredibly hard when you get an Otley run of over a hundred people and you don’t know that they’re coming. So it’s good if it’s a group that large for us to get a phone call or a pre-warning.”

She added: “We welcome Otley runs, we have always been a part of it so if you work here you know that and you expect it.”

However, a bartender at another pub near the end had a different opinion. He said: “I think they’re a complete nuisance. Sometimes I wish we weren’t on the Otley Run, though I suppose they are quite good for business. Sometimes people have had ten pints or shots before getting to us, so they treat the place how they want. They act superior because they are on the Otley run and trash the place like it’s one of their mate’s houses. Often they have no respect for the bar staff, it just causes a lot of trouble.”

He added: “I would recommend that if they are going to come through in a big party they ring in advance so that we are prepared for them. Sometimes we get a hundred showing up and they all expect to be served quickly which is a huge nuisance.”

One mandatory part of the Otley run is fancy dress. Former student Rod Ardehali said: “You and a big gang of your mates pick a theme and dress up.”

Mrs Clarke, from Strawberry Fields, said: “We like to have a laugh with them about whatever costume they are in. The more people dress up, the more fun they have on their way down.”

Ms Crouch added: “People really go for it with the fancy dress, so you need to make sure your costume is on point.

“The Otley run is infamous and has to be attempted in your first year if not in Freshers’ Week.”

Good luck!

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