Fiona Oakes is a 50-year-old extreme endurance runner, four-time Guinness World Records holder, a lifetime vegan and animal rescuer.
Fiona runs in some of the world’s toughest climate conditions, including the polar ice caps, extremely hot deserts and volcanic rings. She completes long-distance runs despite her disability. She lost a kneecap when she was a teenager and doctors told her should would never walk again.
Fiona has been vegan almost all her life. If she is not running she is caring for her 550 rescued animals at the animal sanctuary she founded 25 years ago.
‘I have been vegan for longer than I have been a runner,’ she told Metro.co.uk. 'I actually became vegan when I was six years old, and I have honestly never found my veganism too difficult or compromising to any aspect of my life.'
People don’t believe when she says that she has built her athletic strength on a vegan diet.
‘I think the biggest misconception people have about veganism is that it isn’t healthy – but I’m a testament to the fact it is. ‘I’ve broken four Guinness World Records for running, having been vegan for 47 years now, and I’m very healthy. ‘I built my athletic strength on a plant-based diet, and all this despite my permanent disability.’
She thinks it’s crucial to change other people’s wrong perceptions about vegan diet and nutrition. She believes it’s important to respect your body and eat healthy food.
‘I don’t fixate over my diet, but I have learned over the years to listen to what my body is telling me and act accordingly. ‘I don’t think there is one set eating plan which suits all as everyone’s needs are different – but basically, I adhere to a whole grain diet including plenty of fresh, seasonal, locally sourced vegetables and fruits.’
Is physical preparation the most important for a long-distance runner?
‘Ultramarathons are a state of mind rather than body for me,’ she says. ‘You have to manage your body and your mind carefully and always try to look for the positives rather than focusing on the negatives – which can quickly seem overwhelming if you dwell on them,’ she explains.
‘They teach you so much about yourself and, strangely enough, even though you literally have nothing apart from what you carry on your back, you have everything because you have the freedom and the ability to be there. ‘When you return to your day-to-day life, even the most seemingly trivial events – like turning on a tap and fresh, drinkable water miraculously appearing – is something to behold and cherish.’
Fiona claims that the plant-based diet helps her to achieve such physical extremes. She also says that adapting to a vegan lifestyle is not difficult at all – it’s just about working out exactly what your body needs.
‘Like any other diet, the main thing is that you find the correct nutritional balance for your particular lifestyle,’ she explains.
She has always had a very active lifestyle. She used to to cycle 30 miles each way to work in London.
'Now I spend any time I’m not running caring for our 550 rescued animals at the animal sanctuary I founded 25 years ago.'
She says that the confidence in her beliefs is what makes her a strong person.
‘For the animals, the planet, other human beings, personal health and the future, my veganism is at the core of all I do. ‘It encapsulates justice and compassion for all – something I have always been passionate about.’