Harry Vowles is running London Marathon 2019 to help raise funds for Save the Rhino

Running your first ever marathon is daunting enough, but Harry Vowles (UK) decided to take the 26-mile challenge a step further.

Not only is he running in an elaborate rhino costume weighing 10 kg, but he's also hoping to secure a Guinness World Records title in the process, for the fastest marathon dressed as a three-dimensional animal (male) when he takes on the Virgin Money London Marathon 2019.

Though this task is immensely challenging, Harry was motivated to run the marathon and attempt the record title to raise money for charity Save the Rhino.


We recently caught up with Harry and the Save the Rhino team at their HQ in London, to find out more about Harry's motivations and the charity's work.

Dedicated to the conservation of rhinoceros species around the world, the charity helps equip and empower rangers as well as trying to cut consumer demand for rhino horn.

"Until 2018, we were seeing three animals killed every single day. Overall white rhino numbers have dropped from about 20,000 to 18,000, black rhino numbers have stayed about the same at 5,000... that's just way too low for comfort," Cathy Dean, CEO of Save the Rhino.

Harry became involved with the charity after he travelled in Kenya and visited a rhino conservation park.

Photo credit: Save the Rhino International

"The moment I knew I wanted to run for Save the Rhino charity was definitely after my second visit to Kenya back in May 2018. I went to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, saw the amazing rhinos and absolutely fell in love with them."

There was little area within Ol Pejeta called rhino cemetery.”

"I just found it absolutely mind-blowing that some species of rhino are literally going extinct and we are losing these amazing, amazing animals. It really spurred me on to research how we can protect these animals," Harry Vowles.

After this experience, Harry was determined to work to protect the rhinos in whatever way he could – and running a full marathon in a rhino costume was how he decided to do it.


"As soon as I landed back in the UK I checked out Save the Rhino and the amazing activities and programmes they were involved in. I just wanted to be a part of this movement and help fund raise."

Marathons are a key time in the Save the Rhino's fundraising calendar, and even CEO Cathy Dean has run various marathons and ultra-marathons in the costume.

"Rhino runners have a huge impact on fundraising. Last year we raised over £130,000 purely from the London Marathon," Allie Mills, Save the Rhino .

The Save the Rhino rhino costumes have been an iconic fixture of the London Marathon for over a decade, making their first appearance at the 1992 London Marathon.

Despite being a longstanding marathon feature, the costumes were not designed for running, and were originally costumes for a stage musical named Born Again, directed by Sir Peter Hall.

Therefore it's not surprising that running in the costume is no walk in the park. 


"When you go in there, your senses are completely messed up. It feels like being inside a crisp packet. You only have a little bit of vision." Harry explained.

The challenges facing the costumed marathon runners are extreme enough, with the weight, heat and poor visibility to contend with. However, Harry has added pressure on the day as he hopes to also secure a Guinness World Records title. 

There is no current record-holder for the title, but Harry must run the marathon in under 5 hours 15 minutes to secure the record.

The record-holder for the fastest marathon dressed as a three-dimensional animal (female) is Elly McMeehan (UK), a fellow Rhinoceros runner for Save the Rhino, who completed the London Marathon in 2017 in 5 hours, 44 minutes and 20 seconds.

Elly McMeehan after finishing the 2017 London Marathon 

With only two weeks to go until marathon day, Harry's excitement and anticipation are building.

"Considering everything, with how training's gone so far, if I keep it going I think I stand a good chance of doing it.

"From a very young age I would get the Guinness World Records book. I just remember seeing all the incredible achievements, and just sort of wanting to be a part of that.

"The London marathon attracts so many different Guinness World Records titles, and there's been so many incredible runners doing various different record titles, so that's been the inspiration and motivation to actually want to get that title."