Ironwoman cancer survivor promotes veganism

Ex-Wright-Pat worker promotes healthy living.

She says, “I didn’t really want anyone to see me, so I ran in the morning while it was still dark.”

Now age 78, Ruth Heidrich holds a PhD in Nutrition and Exercise, runs marathons and Ironman Triathlons. She has won more than 1,000 medals and trophies, written four books, appeared in the documentary “Forks Over Knives” and is a breast cancer survivor.

Heidich worked at Wright-Patterson for eight years through 1970s. She holds a Masters in Systems Engineering and worked on the F-16. Her children Karl Heidrich and Laurelle Zamparell are still in the area. Heidrich didn’t run in the Air Force Marathon this year, but came to root for her daughter as she raced on Sept. 21.

Heidrich’s first 10K happened while she was working at Wright-Patterson. She was the only woman in the event. During her run, she ran short on breath because of her inexperience; she struggled to make it across the finish line. She was the fastest time in the women’s division — she smiles and says, “I was the only woman but the first.”

At age 47, she was diagnosis with breast cancer. Heidrich said, “Wait just a … minute, I run marathons, how could I get cancer?” The cancer had metastasized, leading to a full mastectomy.

Around this time, Heidrich saw a snippet in the paper, “Wanted …women with breast cancer.” After talking with Dr. McDougall, who was performing a study she made another big change in her life, she became a vegan. Studies show countries that eat a vegan diet don’t have high cholesterol and heart disease. This was the deciding factor for Heidrich not to use radiation or chemotherapy. She has been cancer free ever since.

During her recovery, she caught the Ironman Triathlon on TV. That was it! She was going to compete in the Ironman.

At her first Ironman, see gazed around thinking, “What am I doing here as I looked around at the 20-somethings and just out of the hospital,” said Heidrich. While she had been training for the event, she got hit by a truck while biking. She went on to finish in the event.

Since that time she has been to Japan and New Zealand to participate in the Ironman in a year’s time. The New Zealand Herald after the race featured Heidrich on the front page as the women’s winner proclaiming “Ruth Heidrich Woman of Iron.”

Heidrich now lives in Hawaii, where she promotes running and veganism. She says, “I want everyone to live a better heather life.”

Heidrich’s newest book, which was published this year and can be purchased from, is “Life Long Running: Overcome the 11 Myths About Running and Live a Healthier Life.”

For more information about Heidrich, see her website at

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