World Record–Setting Runner Fiona Oakes Wants Deadly Dog Race to Become Human Endurance Test—and Throws Her Hat in the Ring
For Immediate Release:
November 21, 2019
Moira Colley 202-483-7382
Wasilla, Alaska – This morning, Fiona Oakes, a four-time world record marathoner who stars in the acclaimed documentary Running for Good, has written to the CEO of the Iditarod urging him to remove the dogs from the race and make it a true test of endurance by using only willing human participants like herself.
“By replacing dogs with elite athletes who demonstrate their own skill and stamina, the Iditarod would attract a new and growing audience—and spare dogs a life of pain and misery. I would be one of the many athletes eager to participate in such a revitalised race,” writes Oakes. “May I hear that you’ll use your position to take the Iditarod in a new direction by leaving dogs out of it?”
A PETA exposé of two Iditarod champions’ dog-sledding operations revealed that dogs were denied veterinary care for painful injuries, kept constantly chained next to dilapidated boxes and plastic barrels in the bitter cold, and forced to run hundreds of miles despite exhaustion and dehydration.
At 14, Oakes was told that she would never walk properly, let alone run. After enduring 17 radical knee surgeries, she’s now the fastest woman in the world to have run a marathon on all seven continents and at the North Pole. She also completed the Marathon des Sables, also known as the “toughest footrace on Earth,” consisting of over 156 miles in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments—the Sahara desert—and which Running for Good is about.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.
Oakes’ letter to Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach follows.
The Fiona Oakes Foundation
Bradwell on Sea
Essex CM0 7HU
Rob Urbach, CEO
Iditarod Trail Committee
Dear Mr Urbach,
My name is Fiona Oakes. I hold four Guinness world records and four marathon course records, have thrice completed the Marathon des Sables, and have won the Antarctic Ice Marathon and the North Pole Marathon. I mention these achievements with humility to drive home the point that they were accomplished without forcing animals to do the hard work. As a fellow endurance athlete, won’t you please use your new position and experience at the USA Triathlon to take the Iditarod in a fresh, humane direction?
The Iditarod is currently mired in controversy. Lost sponsorships, depleted financial reserves, and scathing exposés have irrevocably changed perceptions of the race. But most significant of all is the groundswell of public opposition to forcing dogs to run vast distances, sometimes at the cost of their lives. You can transform what’s increasingly viewed as a torture test for dogs into an elite, world-class event by reinventing the Iditarod so that it celebrates true human talent and endurance.
If the race continues as usual, dogs will continue to face biting winds, blinding snowstorms, sub-zero temperatures, and other extreme weather conditions, as well as suffering from exhaustion, injuries such as stress fractures and bleeding ulcers, and illnesses like intestinal viruses. They will continue to die from being buried in snow, heart attacks, excessive fluid in the lungs, and acute aspiration pneumonia – a lung infection caused by inhaling their own vomit, which is the leading cause of death for dogs in the Iditarod. They’ll spend their off-hours chained up outdoors in the cold.
By replacing dogs with elite athletes who demonstrate their own skill and stamina, the Iditarod would attract a new and growing audience – and spare dogs a life of pain and misery. I would be one of the many athletes eager to participate in such a revitalised race.
May I hear that you’ll use your position to take the Iditarod in a new direction by leaving dogs out of it?
Thank you for your time and consideration.