First-ever rhino wheelchair to charge through London Marathon

Wheelchair with rhino costume.

More than 30 years after the rhino costumes made their iconic debut at the London Marathon, there’s a new addition to the herd! The first-ever rhino wheelchair will be charging through the TCS London Marathon on 21 April 2024.

Donate towards the Rhino Wheelchair for London Marathon 2024!

This pioneering addition to our 65-strong 2024 London Marathon team not only symbolises the importance of protecting endangered wildlife and reinforces that everyone is part of the solution to saving rhinos, but also promotes accessibility in endurance events.

The bespoke wheelchair-adapted costume has been designed by William Todd-Jones (Todd) who, in 1992, was the first person to take on London’s famous 26.2-mile route whilst donning a rhino costume he had helped create for the theatre. Now, 32 years on, his creation will be worn by Martin Turner, a seasoned competitor from North Wales Crusaders wheelchair team and a Wales Rugby League (WRL) athlete.

The unique wheelchair costume has been constructed by students and teachers at Coleg y Cymoedd in Wales, in close consultation with Martin and teammates from WRL. This collaborative process enabled the development of a distinctive chair-adapted costume that meets the challenges of the marathon course, whilst prioritising safety and accessibility for Martin and other participants.

The origins of our incredible costumes trace back to 1989, when they were designed by Gerald Scarfe for a musical named Born Again, directed by Sir Peter Hall (founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company) at the Chichester Festival Theatre. The musical was based on Ionescu’s absurdist play, Rhinoceros, in which all but one of the inhabitants of a small French town gradually turn into magnificent horned beasts. The costumes themselves were built by Vin Burnham Studios, headed by Nikki Lyons (the creator behind the Teletubbies costumes), with Todd as lead rhino. Over the years, the costume evolved, with additional costumes joining the ranks, culminating in today’s total herd of 19. Alongside Martin, there will be 15 members of Save the Rhino’s team participating in the London Marathon in rhino costume.

Our CEO, Jo Shaw, shared her thoughts on the evolution of our costumes, “Since 1992, the London Marathon has been a flagship event for Save the Rhino, raising more than £2 million to date and, crucially, highlighting the importance of rhino conservation to audiences on a world stage. Through events like this we can continue to achieve significant milestones in rhino conservation and bring more people together to make a positive difference for our world.”

Martin Turner added, “I’m nervous, of course, but also really excited by the challenge and grateful to have the chance to promote accessibility in sport through such a unique and iconic endeavour.”

William Todd-Jones reflected on the significance of being part of this ground-breaking initiative, “Connecting people with nature is critical if we are to effectively support our planet. Bringing people together to make this unique project happen has been incredible, and I’m very proud of the fusion between culture and conservation – my two passions – that this represents.

Coleg y Cymoedd’s Karen Workman, Vice Principal (Chief Operating Officer) said, “It has been an honour to join forces with Save the Rhino, bringing new life to their iconic costumes. Members of our Creative Industries, Engineering, Construction and Apprenticeship departments have collaborated on their restoration in our workshops and have had a great time doing so. We’re thrilled to have played such a small, but vital part in spreading Save the Rhino’s message, inspiring action for conservation.”

Donate towards the Rhino Wheelchair for London Marathon 2024

Project partners

We would like to thank and recognise all the brilliant organisations involved in this project, who we have worked alongside to create the Rhino Wheelchair. Thank you to our project partners: Coleg y Cymoedd, Wales Rugby League, Motivation and Wild Connect. We would also like to thank Orangebox and Mark3D UK for their support and work on this project.

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