A while ago I was browsing running films on Amazon and I came across a film called ‘Running for Good‘. It introduced me to a runner called Fiona Oakes. Among her long list of achievements were 4 Guinness World Records (3 variations on fastest marathons on each continent and the North Pole and a ‘fastest half marathon dressed as a cow’), a 2.38 marathon PB and thousands of pounds raised for charity.
Fiona’s story is all the more remarkable when you discover that she had a tumour on her knee when she was a teenager and endured 17 surgeries on it, including one to remove her kneecap. Her prognosis at the time was that she’d be lucky to be able to walk properly. So to be running at all, let alone run a 2.38 marathon, is pretty amazing.
The film (which is narrated by the brilliant Rich Roll, should you need another reason to watch) follows Fiona training for and taking part in the Marathon des Sables. For any runner this involves a fair amount of hardship, but we see Fiona battling constant pain (and even disintegrating shoes during the race) and trying to balance training with looking after over 400 animals at her animal sanctuary. At the sanctuary they look after unwanted and abandoned Staffies, horses past their prime and pigs, cows and sheep, often in terrible condition when they rescue them. Animals whose outlook is bleak without Fiona’s help.
Here’s a trailer for the film:
After watching the film I thought ‘how have I never heard of this runner?’ She’s achieved a great deal in the world of running, done a huge amount of good in the world and she holds multiple world records. And I guess the answer is because, unlike most of the runners we see gaining exposure in the media these days, she’s never been in it for attention for herself. It’s always been all about her animal sanctuary, the Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary. Fiona comes across as incredibly humble and the odd interview that I could find with her was all about the animals.
So I was incredibly sad to learn that Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary is facing the end of the road after 25 years, due to a lack of funds. Despite dedicating her life to it, Fiona and her team at the sanctuary are no longer able to finance it. Unless funds are found in the next few days they will have no choice but to close. Can the running community step up and help?
You can donate via the sanctuary’s Facebook page or via their website where you can also read more about their work. Better still, watch the film about Fiona and if you find it inspiring, entertaining or even just slightly bonkers, show your appreciation by donating to the sanctuary.