Poppy runner breaks unusual world record

Words and photo by Dave Barry 

A Scarborough man dressed as an enormous poppy broke an unusual world record while running the London marathon on Sunday.

Owen Willis, 49, now holds the world record for the fastest marathon dressed as a three-dimensional plant (male) - which is an official category in the Guinness Book of Records.

He had to complete the 26.2-mile race in under five hours to beat the previous record.

The father-of-three is raising money for armed-forces charities.

"When I ran my second marathon in 2014, there were all the poppies at the Tower of London," he said.

"I had this idea that in four years time I would do something to commemorate the centenary of the end of the first world war”.

He spent a few months, on and off, designing and stitching together the 5ft-wide poppy suit, using central heating pipes and gabardine material. It weighs three kilos and is comprised of 16 pieces that slot together.

Owen, of Stepney Avenue, was desperately hoping for either no wind or an easterly breeze at his back, otherwise he would be blown over.

The sunshine made the marathon harder as it was like running in a tent, Owen said. He was grateful for the water handed out at one-mile intervals. “It was forecast to be the hottest marathon ever so I had to keep watering my plant”, he said, with a grin.

The 66,000 entrants included Chris Evans, Katie Price and Gordon Ramsay.

Now Owen is looking forward to his 50th birthday on 30 July and the York marathon in October.

He has already received pledges of about £2,000 and is hoping to raise £5,000 for the Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association by the time he has finished the York run.

Owen is a technical officer with the White Rose home-improvement agency, which is part of Scarborough Council.

* To help him raise £5,000, go to JustGiving.com, search for his name and make a pledge.