Feathers fly as zoo ranger runs half marathon in ostrich attire

Feathers are set to fly on May 19 as a park ranger at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, is not just winging it for his sixth half marathon, but ruffling some feathers by swapping his running shorts for an ostrich costume, making this his first-ever run in full plumage.

Matt Willey, who works at the zoo and conservation charity in North Somerset, will embark on his sixth half marathon. This will mark his third participation in the Bristol Half Marathon.

Covering a distance of 13.1 miles, Matt will be hoping to channel the agility of an ostrich, which are known for speed and endurance and can run continuously at speeds of 30-37 mph and sprint up to 43 mph. With their long, powerful legs allowing them to cover more than ten feet in a single stride, Matt is poised to turn heads and test his mettle against the formidable bird's abilities.

He said: “My main goal is to help raise awareness for any charities that inspire to make a better future. Therefore, I’ll be running the Bristol half marathon in an ostrich costume to help raise awareness of all the great work Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm is doing to help endangered animals.

“I’m thrilled to represent Noah’s Ark in this year’s Bristol Half Marathon and to do so in such a unique way.

“The ostrich costume is not just a fun challenge for me; it’s also a symbol of the incredible work Noah’s Ark does for our community. I hope to raise awareness and support for this cause while pushing my own limits.”

The Zoo now has over 100 species of animals including several species classified as ‘endangered’ or ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, including African elephants, Andean bears, Siamang gibbons and White Rhino. In addition, the Zoo has a strong focus on native conservation including the conservation of native Farm Animals and in 2022 received their Rare Breeds Survival Trust accreditation. The Rare Farm Breeds program at Noah’s Ark aims to support the survival of rare breed British Farm animals for future generations.

Another member of the Noah’s Ark team, Guy Walker, trustee of the charity, will also be participating in the Bristol Half Marathon alongside a group of 22 friends and family. Guy's journey has been one of resilience; after being diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2023 he is now on the path to recovery. Guy’s recovery run has already hit their target and raised £5,000 for a microvascular training station for the Head and Neck unit at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, enabling them to continue their life-saving work.

  • Matthew Willey’s Just Giving Page

  • Guy Walker’s Recovery Run Page