Fiona Oaks is an athlete with a message. She’s a vegan, passionately committed to animal welfare and runs her own animal sanctuary. If you ask her, she will say the only reason she runs is for the animals. It’s what motivates her and what drives her to the most incredible feats of endurance, one of which, her Marathon de Sables run is the backdrop on which this remarkable documentary unfolds.
For the uninitiated, Marathon de Sables is a completely mental, six day, 251km ultramarathon that takes place in the Sarhara Desert, Morocco. It is widely regarded as the toughest foot race on earth and you will see why as the film follows Fiona’s progress.
In between each stage of the desert run we learn more about Fiona’s past and see her completing marathons (and breaking records) on every continent on earth, including Antarctica.
Oh, and we find out Fiona had a debilitating knee disease when she was a teenager and had her knee cap removed…
Throughout the film we see Fiona claiming she isn’t a natural runner, that she is no good at running really and that she doesn’t have a clue about running. She claims it is just the love of animals that enables her to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Given the amount of marathon wins and running world records she has under her belt, it all might sound a bit disingenuous, apart from the fact that the host of top draw ultra athletes taking part in the documentary all confirm she really is that humble and that is truly how she sees herself.
The director of Running for Good is Keegan Kuhn, the director behind Vegan documentaries Cowspiracy and What the Health. However Running for Good is something of a departure from those fact-laden reporter style documentaries, instead focusing on one person’s superhuman efforts to achieve remarkable feats. But, Fiona’s love of animals and her vegan lifestyle is the heartbeat of this movie, with Keegan hoping it makes clear that…
“Being vegan doesn’t hold you back from anything and in fact, it might make you better at what you want to do.”
Despite this, I don’t think the film feels preachy. Yes, it clearly has an agenda because Fiona has an agenda, but it wouldn’t be a true portrait of her if her Veganism wasn’t front and centre. It certainly didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the film, although just for the sake of transparency I should say I am currently transitioning to a plant-based diet myself.
Ultimately Running for Good is compelling because Fiona Oakes is compelling. What she has achieved and how she has achieved it given the challenges she has faced is truly remarkable, and for one race, in the most demanding of conditions, she takes us along for the ride.
If you want to find out more about Fiona’s story, check out the Rich Roll podcast 397