Dr. Ruth Heidrich is on a Mission to Heal the World, One Run at a Time!
First things first: This Dr. Ruth is not the U.S. TV personality and sex therapist, but she’s plenty sexy—for an 80-year-old with a remarkable story to tell. The feisty, optimistic vegan is not bashful about sharing her opinions after surviving more than most throughout her action-packed life. She’s an author, speaker, lifestyle coach, marathoner, cancer survivor and if you saw the award-winning documentary film “Forks over Knives”, she appeared in that, too. Dare we add that Dr. Ruth is a great-grandmother and former military logistics engineer whose life story has taken our collective breath away?
RS: Dr Ruth, how did you first start running 47 years ago?
Dr Ruth: I spotted a book entitled "Aerobics" in 1968 written by Kenneth Cooper, MD. The book intrigued me so much, I read it in one sitting—I couldn’t put it down. Early the next morning, I dug out my old tennis shoes, shorts and a T-shirt and went for my first run. I felt so good that I ran the next morning and the next. I don't intend to quit!
RS: Can you tell us about the most memorable race you’ve run?
Dr Ruth: My first Ironman Triathlon in 1984. I had been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer two years earlier and then seven weeks before the race, I was hit by a truck while training. I suffered a concussion, temporary amnesia and a fractured hip. Doctors said, “Forget the Ironman; you won’t heal in time.” But thanks to the groundbreaking vegan diet I had adopted, I was convinced I would heal fast enough to show up for the start.
RS: Are you saying you actually showed up?
Dr Ruth: You bet—I decided to tackle the swimming portion of the Ironman first. Once I accomplished that, I went for the biking segment. Assuming that my fractured hip would preclude me from finishing, I still wanted to go as far as possible. To my total amazement, I finished!
RS: You travel to many countries. Ever been to Singapore?
Dr Ruth: I’ve been to Singapore three times. In fact, the Strait Times ran an article about me with photos when I was there to address groups about diet and exercise. One of my favourite running photos was taken in front of the Raffles Hotel.
RS: Which country is the most ideal for running?
Dr Ruth: They’re all unique, so I’ll answer by saying that any country is ideal as long as one can get out of the city and run through open spaces!
RS: If you couldn't run anymore, what would you do?
Dr Ruth: I’d either aqua-jog or resign myself to walking, cycling and swimming.
RS: Where does all of your drive come from? What motivates you?
Dr Ruth: Learning about the theory and benefits of running back in 1968 was powerful motivation, but over time, both my cancer and high cholesterol diagnoses made me realise that exercise wasn’t the only healthy change I could practise. In 1982, Dr. John McDougall introduced me to the low-fat vegan diet I now follow. It’s a powerful way of eating. I believe it can reverse cancer. Thanks to my diet, I now have low cholesterol, low blood sugar levels and blood pressure. I’m motivated by my continued good health.
RS: You triumphed over cancer and inspire your followers. Who inspires you and how?
Dr Ruth: Dr. McDougall. He was the first to show me research on people who ate animal products and consequently had the highest cancer rates and he opened my eyes to research on people who avoided animal products. As far as I know, I was the first breast cancer patient to try this diet as the only treatment I undertook while battling cancer. I refused chemotherapy, radiation and hormone blockers. That’s why he’s my inspiration.
RS: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Dr Ruth: (laughs) Sending in the entry form and my $100 check to register for the 1984 Ironman Triathlon after just having been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. This was totally crazy, said my doctors, family and friends!
RS: As an advocate for a plant-based diet, what advice can you give to someone who wants to try it?
Dr Ruth: Dive in and see for yourself how powerful this diet can be. People ask how long it took to see results. I say, “The next morning—no more constipation!" As with any lifestyle change, it takes self-discipline to establish new patterns but once it becomes habit, it’s easy.
RS: We live in a stressful world: If you had the power to effect change, which problems would you solve first?
Dr Ruth: I would tackle the cost of treating diseases caused by eating animal products. This crisis has the potential to bankrupt our economy and make the planet uninhabitable. I find the obesity rates in children who consume a western diet to be appalling. Feeding animal-based foods to kids constitutes child abuse in my opinion! I’d also change the inhumane way “food animals” are treated. It’s disgusting and should never be tolerated by people living in so-called civilised societies.
RS: What plans do you have for running and your future?
Dr Ruth: My future plans include continuing my 2-3 hours of daily training in running, cycling, and swimming. I have a number of races on my calendar and I think it would be fun to add to the nearly 1,000 trophies I've collected in my 33 years of racing. (I don't think there will be a lot of competition since I'm in the 80-84 age group!) I also plan to continue educating any and all who are ready to listen to my diet and exercise advice, whether through email, talks, books or other communications.
RS: If the world ended tomorrow, how would you spend today?
Dr Ruth: Good question. I would definitely want to be with my loved ones – family and friends.
RS: Your life achievements are astonishing. How would you like to be remembered?
Dr Ruth: I would like to be recalled as a woman who broke two major barriers: the first vegan to do the Ironman Triathlon and the first cancer patient to complete an Ironman. I would like to be remembered for the books I have written and information I share via my website. I will leave no shortage of accomplishments as my legacy!
We know what you’re thinking: This woman is 80-years-old and she’s more active than I am! If that’s true, we’d like to know if she has inspired you—and specifically, what will you do to model yourself after this extraordinary dynamo so you live a healthier life?