Over the past few years there have been some amazing films following runners doing all sorts of absurd yet inspiring things. You can watch Karl Meltzer break the AT speed record in “Made To Be Broken.” There’s “Finding Traction” which follows Nikki Kimball as she tries to break Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail record. One of the craziest one’s I’ve seen is “The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young” and if you know anything about the race you know the film will be just as unpredictable. It’s easy to find inspirational stories if you are looking.
There’s one film that kind of sneaks up on you and is as unassuming as the runner herself. What I mean by that is Fiona Oakes, the focus of “Running For Good.” She is one of the most modest people to build a story around. But her unpretentious nature is what makes her so fascinating. The premise of this story is intriguing as we follow Fiona on one of her biggest challenges to date, to run the Marathon Des Sables. The MDS is a multistage, 250km race based in the Sahara Desert. Ya, its hardcore! But then, so is Fiona in her own plainspoken way.
In Fiona’s own words. she is not a runner. She runs for the animals. In order to understand that, let’s peek at what that means. Fiona is owner and operator of Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to over 400 animals ranging from cats, dogs, pigs, sheep, goats, cows, peacocks, turkeys, horses… You get the idea, there are lots of animals. She cares about animals and it drives everything she does. While running the MDS she compares the heat and stress that “food” animals have to deal when being transported in trucks to some of what she is going through and uses their suffering as fuel to push past her own.
Her approach when it comes to her running success is humbling to the end. She holds multiple world records, course records at a plethora of marathons and is as elite as they come. On a whim she ran a marathon at the North Pole and won it. She is that amazing but you would never know it from her mousey character. She doesn’t try to win these races for herself, she is doing it to spread the message of veganism. In an interview for Viva La Vegan she says, “Once, when I won a Marathon in a massive course record, the Mayoress who was presenting the prizes told me her daughter had wanted to go vegetarian but she was against it as she was not convinced it would be ideal for a young girl who was still growing. Seeing what I had just done on a vegan diet had convinced her that it was okay for her daughter, which was the biggest prize I could ever want!”
“Running For Good” is also a visual masterpiece. If you’ve seen “What The Health” or “Cowspiracy” than you know the work of Keegan Kuhn can be visually stunning. This film is quite different from those in that he doesn’t rely so much on graphics and info-graphics to tell the story, Fiona’s story is as authentically pure as it gets. The film captures the beauty of her life at home and the visually stunning locations in which she runs. The footage of the MDS alone is beautiful.
If you are looking to be inspired this film will leave you awe-struck for quite a time after viewing. It’s certainly lit a fire in my belly to do more. I am not the best advocate that I can be for the animals, I’m not a sign carrying protester. One of the biggest things I take away from this film, though, is that we all have some form of advocacy and activism we can stand behind and do well. Fiona Oakes is a force for the animals when she is out on the course, whatever location that may be. This film shows the world you can be a compassionate and caring person and stand up for animals in any way possible.
For more info on the film go to https://runningforgoodfilm.com/
For more info on Fiona and Tower Hill Stables go to http://www.towerhillstables.com/
* poster image from Running For Good website, animal photos from the Tower Hill Stables Facebook page.