The Otley Run


The Otley Run has been a traditional ‘right of passage’ for thousands of Leeds students since the late 1960’s. In its original, and some would say its ‘purest’ form, it entailed a day of drinking and eating in 11 pubs which were on a 2.5 mile section of the Otley Road, beginning at the Woodman Pub (now known as “Woodies”) and finishing at the Pig and Whistle pub (long time deceased!) at the Merrion Centre in Leeds.

It’s the drinker’s equivalent of an iron-man endurance test and fancy dress is worn by 99 per cent of participants. Normally starting at around 4.00 pm, groups of students meet up in Woodies and embark on their epic journey. This would entail a pint of ale or lager for the males and half of lager or a glass of wine/spirit for the females in each pub.
Considered to be one of the longest established pub crawls in the UK, the Otley Run is now established as a Headingley tradition. Locals are very used to the gaggles of rabble-rousing students, singing and staggering along the pavement, looking something like a cross between the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy and the Big Bang Theory (nerd costumes obviously)!

The original eleven pubs were:
The Woodman (Woodies), 3 Horse Shoes, New Inn, Skyrack, Original Oak, Hyde Park, The Pack Horse, The Eldon, The University Union Bar, The Fenton and finally, the Pig and Whistle.

Nowadays, depending on who you talk to, Headingley’s Otley Run now involves anywhere between 11 and 19 bars. The inclusion of pubs away from the main Otley Road route is regarded as optional, with followers of the extended list often starting quite early to allow time to visit as many pubs as possible.

Optional route – 2015
Depending on the route taken, the Otley Run can include as many as 19 drinking establishments:
1. Woodies Ale House, Far Headingley
2. The Three Horseshoes, Far Headingley
3. The New Inn, Far Headingley
4. Headingley Taps, Headingley
5. Trio, Headingley
6. Havana Tapas & Cocktail Bar, Headingley (Formerly Citrus)
7. The Arc, Headingley
8. The Box, Headingley
9. The Skyrack, Headingley
10. The Original Oak, Headingley
11. The Hyde Park, Hyde Park Corner
12. The Library, Woodhouse Lane (formerly Feast and Firkin)
13. The Packhorse, Woodhouse Lane
14. The Eldon, Woodhouse Lane
15. The Terrace Bar, Leeds University Union
16. The Fenton, Woodhouse Lane
17. Strawberry Fields Bar
18. The Met Bar, Leeds Becketts Union
19. The Dry Dock, Woodhouse Lane


There are dozens of costumes you can wear but it’s of prime importance to wear the right one for you considering you’ll be in it for most of the day and evening. And please remember – an expensive costume isn’t necessary for you to have a good time.

Choosing a group theme is a great idea and creates instant ‘team spirit’. Pub golf is a popular choice as hole numbers on a golf course can be set against the number of pubs on the Otley Run. Golfers wear gaudy coloured trousers, tucked into football socks, ugly shoes or trainers, baseball cap and a polo shirt. No colours should match ! The pub golf score card helps you record the drinks against each pub. The next morning you’ll have a record of where you’ve visited!
Other popular themes for groups include of Cowboys and Indians, Smurfs, Oompa-loompas (see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Transformers, Simpsons characters, Futurama (especially Fry, Leela, Professor Farnsworth, Bender, Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan), Roman toga party. Gangsters and Molls, Doctors and Nurses, Fire-fighters, Superheroes, Movie characters (eg The Mask, Pirates, Sponge Bob, Sean the Sheep, Mickey and Minnie Mouse Mouse), Terminators, Priests and Nuns or even Nerds!
• Don’t forget to wear good, comfy footwear. You’ll be walking between the pubs so wear shoes that are comfortable. Girls should include a pair of flat shoes in a bag, especially if your outfit includes wearing heels.
• Check the weather forecast. If you’re walking between pubs in the middle of Winter wearing little more than a skimpy top and shorts then you’re going to be cold. An umbrella is also a godsend if there’s rain.

Unsurprisingly, Headingley’s pub landlords don’t condone binge drinking, so don’t go out with the intention of getting really drunk to the point of a passing out. It’s NOT cool and you may end doing something your friends taunt you about for years (and decades!) to come.

The Traditional Rules
Each group attempting the Otley Run seem to have their own rules. The most common ones include:-
• A pint or bottle of beer in each pub for the males.
• Females can choose half pints or a single unit
• Themed fancy dress
• None of these rules are mandatory – you can do your own thing – don’t let the ‘beer bullies’ get you to drink too much!
• Start early and pace yourself.
• Try and drink some water and eat food as you go – most pubs sell excellent food.
• Consider low alcohol options or dilute your drinks with a non-alcoholic mixer.
• Remember that 11-19 drinks is a lot of alcohol! Know what your limit is! We DON’T recommend doing the full list of bars and pubs – and anyway, buying a drink in every pub you visit will get quite expensive.
• Avoid mixing your drinks. A concoction of wine, beer and spirits flowing through your body is a recipe for disaster.
• If you get tired and weary, go home to bed!
• If you’re a slow drinker don’t allow the ‘beer monsters’ to dictate your speed. Pace yourself and move onto the next pub when you’re ready, not before.
• Please stay safe. Make sure you take care of yourselves and the people around you.

Finally, the Otley Run can be a fantastic experience.
If you go out with the right group and have a ‘team spirit’ for the occasion, you should have a brilliant time. Try to choose a good group of trusted people to do it with – the people you go out with make the night enjoyable, not the pubs. Take lots of pictures early as you’ll probably forget to later in the day!
You can send Headingley Student Houses your Otley Run pictures [] and we’ll put them in our “Rogues Gallery’ on our featured Facebook page!





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