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Raw power – Australian marathoners thrive on vegan diet

By Pete Bailey

Marathoners prove a vegan diet can power stunning feats of running (combined with healthy doses of health, happiness and love)


A bout with breast cancer – and the prognosis of perhaps six months to live – shook up the lives of Janette Murray-Wakelin and her husband Alan Murray 13 years ago, and their decision to change their lives completely eventually brought them an astounding result.

But first, Janette had to go through her surgery, a lumpectomy, in a British Columbia hospital. She then decided to forego chemotherapy or radiation. Instead, she opted to build up her immune system with nutrients, under the care of a naturopathic doctor.

“I changed my diet to get more nutrients into my system. I also went to a naturopathic physician and received intravenous holistic treatments for my immune system, rather than killing things with chemicals.”

More than a decade later, Janette, 64, says she’s “completely cleared of cancer.” The couple, who had been runners for years, began training for marathons and living on a strictly vegan diet 11 years ago. They eat no animal products, including honey, and avoid stimulants such as tea, coffee or alcohol.

They are now so healthy and fit that she and Alan, a youthful 69 – with a lot of training, she emphasizes – were able to run 366 marathons around the continent of Australia in 366 days in 2013.

In doing so, they set a new world record, becoming the only couple over age 60 to run so far a distance in one year fueled only on fruits and vegetables. They also developed a following of 16,000 fans on Facebook during their trek.

Today, the couple travels the world to promote her book, titled Raw Can Cure Cancer, and to publicize her latest book Running Out of Time, which tells the story of their celebrated run around Australia. It was released in August, and a documentary about their feat is to be released this fall.

The Murrays, both of whom are now motivational speakers, were recently in Toronto to speak at the Toronto Raw Vegan Festival, to speak to several local vegan groups and to attend the Toronto ideacity conference in June.

Janette, a writer, tends to do the talking when the couple is interviewed. As she speaks, Alan watches her intently, listening to every word. They have been married for 46 years and seem quite content with their lives and their goals. Both are polite and direct in speech, and both do what they can to promote a lifestyle of “conscious living, thinking and acting consciously about every choice we make in life – our diet, exercise, work, environment and our play.

“Everything you do, say or act, you should do on a positive basis,” Janette explained. “Try to think more kindly and compassionately about things.”

In some ways, Alan had to come the farthest in his lifestyle. Janette says that while she was a vegetarian early on, Alan in his younger years was a “raging carnivore.”

“I was a typical guy, going to the pub, getting drunk, being one of the crowd,” he admitted. “But once you clean up your act, your body becomes more aware.” Today, he gets his “highs” naturally, through endorphins, he says.

Not only has he lost 50 pounds in the past 20 years, he eats a lot less.

“It’s less food, but it’s higher quality,” Janette said. It is Janette’s belief that our bodies are naturally alkaline, so “we should be eating alkaline foods such as fresh, ripe fruit. When you cook food, you lose the nutrients and the enzymes. And ‘dead food’ is acid-forming; your body has to work to get rid of it.”

As for a vegan diet providing enough energy to get them through the day, Janette cites an example of how they ran their marathons around Australia. “Running through the south of Australia, we planned for 26 days and we stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables, because there’s be nowhere there to buy organic food. But on Day 24 we ran out of fruit and veg. We had chia seeds, which are full of nutrients and protein, and also some organic raisins and almonds. For three days, that’s all we had to eat. We soaked the chia seeds and raisins in water, and made almond milk.”

During that period, the couple ran 48 kilometres in one day. They are convinced a vegan diet is a healthy and a nourishing one.

When asked what they believe in most strongly, neither is hesitant. “It’s a belief in health and happiness and love,” said Janette. “There’s a purpose to our being here (on Earth). It comes back to love, to our interactions with others. The more it’s experienced, the better things are.”

Alan agreed. “She said it better than I could,” he said. “I believe in unconditional love for all things,” he said.

“In Australia,” Janette added, “on the radio programs for seniors there are all kinds of commercials for funeral homes and for life insurance. It’s all fear driven.”

“We have a home, and we grow our own food,” she adds. “We don’t go out a lot. We like to spend time with our grandchildren.”

The couple enjoys a simple life with few of the expenses others pay out to enjoy themselves.

“I hope my writing will sustain us,” she says. “We don’t need millions to live.”


What powers these vegans?

On a typical day, the Murrays’ breakfast is a smoothie, “with orange or grapefruit with bananas and greens,” explains Janette Murray-Wakelin. “That can last us till 3 p.m. For lunch we’ll have a salad, ideally, and for a snack we’ll eat seasonal fruit. In the early evening we’ll drink some vegetable juice, and for dinner we may have a melon, a pineapple or a bunch of oranges.”


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