British violist smashes Guinness World Record for running the marathon dressed as a musical instrument.

Liverpool-born Alistair Rutherford – a.k.a. The Running Viola – has done it again. Not content with breaking the Guinness World Record for running the fastest half marathon dressed as a musical instrument earlier this year, he completed the Birmingham International Marathon on October 15 in a remarkable three hours, 20 minutes and 33 seconds – smashing the previous record by almost an hour (previously set in 2016 by a runner competing in the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach dressed as a cowbell).

Alistair Rutherford. All photos © www.andrewpeat.co

Rutherford, a 21-year-old student at the Birmingham Conservatoire, is aiming to raise at least £4,000 (roughly $6750) for a collaborative project that sees academics, alumni and string students at his Conservatoire teach South African kids via Skype once a week. The Cape Gate MIAGI Centre for Music & Birmingham Conservatoire project is also known as ARCO after the technique of playing a stringed instrument with a bow.

“I cannot thank everyone enough at the Royal Birmingham Conserivatoire and ARCO, along with my family and friends, for their unwavering support throughout this challenge,” said Rutherford. “Running the Birmingham International Marathon wasn’t easy, particularly in my costume, but it was great to have them cheering me on along the route – whether in person or virtually – as well as the people of Birmingham, who came out in force to support all the runners.”

Rutherford’s custom-made viola costume with its distinctive viola neck and pegbox headpiece was created from lightweight Plastazote foam by Brian D Hanlon, a Liverpool-based designer. Fellow students ‘cheered’ Rutherford on by performing a brass dectet and a piece for massed violas arranged by Birmingham Conservatoire Head of Composition Dr Joe Cutler and written especially for the occasion.

Now a postgraduate student, Rutherford has been a keen fundraiser for the ARCO project. In 2016 he ran 2798km (equal to the length of South Africa’s coastline. “Alistair Rutherford’s energy, passion and unswerving commitment to the ARCO project, for which he is fundraising, is an example to us all, said Louise Lansdown, the Conservatoire’s Head of Strings. “Everyone at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire could not be prouder of Alistair and his incredible achievements.”

The ARCO project encourages Conservatoire staff and students to act as role models for youngsters living in Soweto and Alistair’s fundraising will allow his own pupil, 17-year-old Njabulo Nxumalo, to travel to the UK, along with Kwanda Buthelezi (13) and Mbali Phato (12) and perform alongside ARCO in a concert as part of the Cecil Aronowitz Viola Competition.

Sadly this might be the last we see of Rutherford on the roads. “I am planning on resting The Running Viola for the moment, unless someone breaks my records!” he said, though added that he was “looking forward to my work coming to frutition though, when my ARCO student comes to Birmingham in November.”


You can support Alistair’s world record attempt via his JustGiving page. You can also watch videos of Alistair training in his costume