When Fiona Oakes decided to run competitively, no coach wanted to take her on. She had no money to buy magazines about running, no time to spend on blogs. With over 400 animals under her care, she relied on her determination, strong work ethic and discipline to compete. She did not have a coach to support her goals, but she did have a purpose that compelled her to do her best.
The lack of a knee cap never deterred her from running either.
Fiona Oakes has competed and won in several places, including the North Pole, Antarctica and the Sahara Desert. “Running for Good” is a book I could not put down. I was spellbound by Fiona’s adventures of running marathons under extreme conditions; her humility and compassion are at the heart of every experience.
“It hasn’t been easy. I’ve got no coach, nobody to tell me what to do or what not to do. I have to truly believe that whatever effort I’m putting in on any given day, there is going to be a reward for it on race day. I’m short of time; it’s horrible weather, and I’m tired, but I’ve got to believe that by going and doing that run, that training, it is going to make a difference on that race day, somewhere in the future. That belief has been one of my greatest strengths, and underlying that belief is the motivation that allows me to do it all. I am not doing it for myself. I don’t want anything for myself that badly that would drive me that hard and make me that determined.”
Fiona Oakes saves lives in different settings: as a firefighter, as a caregiver in her animal sanctuary, and even as a runner, at the marathons, when she has the chance to support her competitors in need.
Fiona Oakes is vegan, and she runs to stand up for her beliefs. She competes to bring attention to the brutality of factory farms, places where animals are exploited and tortured from the day they are born to the day they die. Everything is connected, so it makes sense to point out that the cruelty of factory farms has domino effects on human animals too, and this is a good time to highlight a relevant fact that the mainstream media ignore: Factory farms are breeding grounds for new pandemics. (Feel free to check the articles at the bottom of this post to learn more).
The first time the BBC contacted Fiona Oakes for an interview, after she won a competition in the North Pole, they made a special request: they asked her to avoid mentioning that she was vegan. Why would they want to censor that about her? However, when she was asked what compelled her to run, she had the chance to state her purpose and she emphasized her veganism. The reporter ignored her comment.
Overlooking the central aspect of her running is no longer feasible, because it has always been the driving force of her career.
Fiona does not run to celebrate awards and medals. She does it for the sake of others.
“I sometimes feel embarrassed when I say that what drives me on is the suffering of animals in the factory farming industries and the cruelty that’s going on in the world today. For example, take the Marathon des Sables: It is a tough race, it’s a brutal race. Indescribably hot. It never goes below 50 degrees. You’ve got sandstorms, you’ve got a marathon to do a day, one day you’ve got an 80 K, you’ve got jebels to climb, you’ve got sand to deal with. You’ve got all sorts of problems, but I say I feel embarrassed because the caveat to all this is that at any point I can put my hand up and say, ‘Actually, I’ve had enough and I want to go home now.’ You can. The animals can’t, so what I’m doing is just a drop in the ocean, and because I’m doing it for a purpose, failing is a disaster for me. It’s not something that I’ve got written in my agenda that I’m going to fail.”
Unlike other runners, Fiona does not have much time to recover. She needs to look after the animals in the sanctuary that she founded: the Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary. The sanctuary is her priority. Running is secondary.
“Every penny we’ve got has always gone into the sanctuary,” she says.
I hope her own words will help to explain the authenticity of her love and humility, and to illuminate the darkest corners of this world:
“People ask what sort of animals we take in. Let me tell you, people don’t ask you to take in young, healthy, fit, well-trained dogs. And people don’t come to you and say, ‘I’m really looking for something elderly, something on expensive medication, and preferably we’d like it to be incontinent.”
Her connection with the animals has always been deep. She has a special understanding of them. I hope that she will write a book about her relationships and experiences with the animals at the sanctuary. I will be happy to read it and will write about it on this blog.
Thank you so much for everything you do, Fiona. You are an inspiration to many people, and those who support you are also an inspiration. Keep up the ripples of love and hope.
Happy New Year.
To learn more about her Sanctuary and how you can help, visit the Sanctuary site.
You can learn more about Fiona Oakes from this interview:
Articles about how factory farms are breeding grounds for future pandemics:
This is an insightful conversation about this.