Fiona Oakes is an elite marathon runner with three Guinness World Records, animal sanctuary owner, vegan for forty years and has been honored by the Queen and Prince Philip.
Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive or inspires you?
Fiona Oakes: Achieving all I can and being the best I can to represent the animals and my beliefs in the most positive way I am able is what really motivates and inspires me. Knowing that I am using my sport to help animals pushes me to the next level and [keeps me] always hungry and wanting to achieve better results for them. Using that success for their benefit to illustrate the injustices they face on a daily basis is the most amazing motivator to get to that finish line as quickly as possible, far more so than just a medal or a time can give.
MP: You are a legend. Why do you run?
FO: Simple, I run to illustrate what I truly believe in. I run to break down the myths and misconcep - tions, so often portrayed in the media and press, that a wholly plant-based diet is detrimental to not only sporting excellence and endurance, but general health too. I have always felt that actions speak much louder than words and are far more difficult to ignore or argue with, and getting out there and achieving things is proof positive of what I believe.
MP: Any health tips for staying in optimum shape?
FO: Learn to listen to your own body, the messages it sends you and how to interpret those messages in the most practical and beneficial way for both mental and physical health. I believe mental health is just as important as physical health, and I know I am very lucky that the strength of my convictions and beliefs goes a long way to benefiting both. It is a great comfort to me to know mentally that my physical performance is in no way enhanced by the suffering of others.
MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?
FO: I would ask them to consider following one basic ethic or ideal—compassion to all and for all. To understand that all creatures are equal and each life is therefore of equal importance, to only treat others the way you would wish to be treated yourself.
MP: How do you handle emotional pain?
FO: Running the Sanctuary and seeing the amount of cruelty and suffering I do does make for a pretty emotional ‘roller coaster’ of a life. There are tremendous ‘ups’ and devastating ‘downs’ most every day which can cause terrible emotional pain and exhaustion. I tend to use my time when I am running to sort things out in my head and work out my problems and how I am going to solve them if I am suffering or struggling emotionally My running time is my thinking time, especially on long, solitary efforts where you have to dig deep both physically and mentally. It is also a great comfort for me in particularly difficult times to be able to walk freely amongst so many contented souls and lives which have been saved by the Sanctuary being able to step in and help them when there was no hope for them elsewhere. It is shocking, distressing, and traumatic for me to know that so many are literally in hopeless situa - tions, but it is a great emotional lift for me to know and see on a daily basis that I have not been help - less to offer a hand of kindness, love, and security to so many.
MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine?
FO: Yes, I have a very rigid daily routine which never really varies. This is something the animals really do benefit from and respond to, a stable and regular routine. I get up at 3:30 a.m. and start my work with the animals. I finish my day when the jobs are done, usually around 9 at night. I need to train basically nine times a week, varying from speed work, hills, off road, on road, recovery, and longer tempo runs. I am also a very calm person and very logical and unemotional in a crisis. I tend to use every experience in life, whether good or bad, as a learning opportunity and I think I have always been able to progress and move forward rather than stagnate.
MP: What’s been one of your biggest lessons so far in life?
FO: Don’t let other people tell you how much or how little you can achieve. Decide for yourself what you want to do and go out and find a way of making it happen. After my surgery to remove my right knee cap, thirty years ago as a teenager, I was told I would never walk properly again and it was inconceivable I would ever be able to run. Even now, doctors are stunned that I am able to do what I can, some saying it defies all logic. So, if defying logic it what it takes, then so be it. If you want it badly enough, just believe in yourself!
MP: What truth do you know for sure?
FO: The truth I know for sure is that my commitment to my beliefs is what has driven me on to the levels I have reached. Reaching out and showing other people that truth is what is most important to me. Spreading the message of compassion is my truth.
MP: What is love for you?
FO: Compassion is love and love is compassion. The idea that compassion is for all, not just certain species or scenarios. That is love.
MP: Causes or organizations that you’re passionate about?
FO: Obviously my own animal sanctuary is very important to me as it is where I care for, give hope and a home to over four hundred animals who have suffered neglect, abandonment, and cruelty in a previous life.
MP: Tell me about your latest projects.
FO: Obviously, within the Sanctuary I am continually trying to improve and grow things wherever I can. With my running I am currently training for the Berlin Marathon where I have an Elite Start and would like to break two of my own world records. Next year I am looking at the 4 Deserts Grand Slam.
Fiona Oakes is an animal sanctuary owner, ethical vegan for forty years, and elite marathon runner. Her sanctuary, Towerhill Stables Animal Sanctuary in the UK, cares for over four hundred animals, particularly farmed animals and horses. She currently holds three Guinness World Records for being the fastest woman to run a marathon at the North Pole and fastest to run marathons in all seven continents in both days elapsed and combined running time. Her main goal in life is to promote all aspects of a cruelty-free lifestyle in a positive, proactive, and peaceful way.