The owner of an animal sanctuary is running a total of 500 miles throughout December to raise money for the animals she cares for.
More than 500 rescued animals live at Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary (THS) in Essex, founded by vegan runner Fiona Oakes in 1993. A world record-holding distance runner, Oakes picked 500 miles to represent the number of mouths that need feeding everyday at the sanctuary.
“The Sanctuary was borne out of a need to find a safe haven for the animals I already had in my care,” Oakes tells Plant Based News. “But when I had my own land I was given the potential to be able to rescue animals from the farming industry – pigs, sheep, cattle, turkeys, chickens etc. From there things have just grown and grown. Sadly, the demand for safety and sanctuary is still massive and sadly, in the scheme of such demand, we can only facilitate the rescue of a very few of those beautiful souls.”
A Christmas tradition
Oakes uses Christmas as a time to raise much needed funds for the sanctuary. Last year she ran 52 miles on Christmas Eve. This year, she decided to up the ante and run every day of December. She will cover around 20 miles a day to reach her 500 mile target and has just passed the 100 mile mark.
The fundraising goal is £5,800, and is already more than halfway there. Oakes decided on the goal after Radio 2 presenter Vernon Kay’s recent completion of a 100 mile ultramarathon to raise money for Children in Need. Kay raised £5.8 million, so Oakes chose to aim for a modest 0.1 percent of that.
She has called her challenge “Miles for Mouths and Smiles” because she not only wants to feed her rescued animals, but also spread a little joy.
“I am doing a lot of my running in various seasonal themed outfits,” she says, to give onlookers a smile. These include an elf, a snowman, and a cow.
For most people, running 20 miles a day would be pretty big challenge. But Oakes already holds four Guinness World Records for marathon running. These include fastest female to complete a marathon on each continent including at the North Pole, and fastest to complete a marathon in an animal costume (as a cow). She has also completed “the toughest footrace on Earth” – the Marathon Des Sables – three times.
Oakes started running after she set up the sanctuary. “After starting the Sanctuary I soon realised just offering refuge to a very few animals was not enough. I wanted to do something which might stem the flow of the need for Sanctuaries – i.e. to promote a vegan world where animals were not bred for food or other exploitative agendas,” she says.
At the time, champion long-distance runner Paula Radcliffe was gaining a lot of media attention for winning marathons. Oakes was inspired to try running herself. This was despite having had her right knee cap removed as a teenager due to the discovery of a tumor.
“I just thought if I could compete in, and hopefully complete, a Marathon it would be all the definitive proof anyone would need to see that a long term, vegan diet was not prohibitive to anything – let alone the most extreme of endurance events,” says Oakes. Now in her 50s, she has been a vegan since she was a child. In 2004 she co-founded Vegan Runners.
Of her current challenge, she acknowledges it will be tough to complete. Not just mentally, but “logistically,” she says, as running 20 miles a day “is a large commitment no matter what your experience.”
But she believes, “If there is a will, there usually is a way. And my will has always been focussed on the creation of a better, more positive and fairer world for all. With peace on your plate, love in your heart, empathy in your soul and justice in your mind there are no limits to the environment we can create together, for each other and the animals.”
You can donate to Miles for Mouths and Smiles here.