Marathon, pah! Try 16 pubs in five miles

A veteran of the notorious Otley Run sympathises with its victims

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The Independent Online

We have all been there. You agree to go on a pub crawl with your best mates, and you wake up the next morning feeling as if you've been run over by a bus. But pity poor Danny Cipriani, the rugby player who, during a pub crawl on Wednesday, was literally hit by a double-decker as he crossed the road, miraculously escaping with just concussion, cuts and bruises.

I can empathise with Cipriani, not because I've tried to rugby-tackle a bus but because I have done the Otley Run, the notorious pub crawl in Leeds he was trying to complete. It is long – stretching five miles, and you have to walk every step – and difficult, taking in 16 pubs. When you start the crawl, in Far Headingley, close to the Yorkshire Dales, with a pint of Sam Smith's bitter (not lager – the fizziness makes you feel too full) you feel on top of the world, ready for anything. When you've downed pint number three, you're strolling into Headingley, the home of Yorkshire cricket (and rugby), with the spirit of William Hague's "14 pints a day" driving you forward.

But by the time you're clinging to the bar of the hilariously named Dry Dock, 16 pints later, it feels like the end of the world. Danny and his mates were dressed as characters from The Wizard of Oz, which is appropriate, because as you're stumbling out of the boat-shaped pub, you start to realise there is no place like home – but no amount of clicking your heels together is going to get you there, and it's doubtful the minicab firm next to Theo's kebabs is going to take the risk of vomit all over the seats.

OK, so in my day, when I was a university student in Leeds in the mid-1990s, it was slightly easier – there were only 12 pubs on the route. The official Otley Run website recommends beginning at 3pm, but when I did it we started at opening time, at 11am, so we could drink more slowly. The "rules" may have changed, but in the 1990s women were "allowed" to drink a half in each pub. Outraged at such inequality, I started off with pints but at some point – possibly at pub number nine (in my day, The Eldon), I realised that you can't drink eight pints, let alone 12, if you weigh eight stone.

The Eldon was what we politely called a pub for "locals". They hated students – despite, or probably because of, being opposite Leeds University and smack in the middle of the Otley Run.

Oh how the nostalgia rushed in when I read of the duty manager of The Eldon complaining about Cipriani's group crashing about the place. "We refused to serve the Tin Man," the unnamed manager told one paper, apparently without a hint of humour. Good to see that the run – and The Eldon – haven't changed a bit.