The 'Iron Nun' is an 86-year-old inspiration

#Ideas & Stories
Read Time: 2 minutes

If ever you needed proof that age is merely a number, Sister Madonna Buder would gladly oblige. I came across her amazing tale just recently after she featured in a Nike advert which showcases her incredible physique and amazing attitude to life at the age of 86.

No ordinary nun

Sister Madonna Buder is a nun, but she's certainly no ordinary one. Sister Buder is also a devoted triathlete whose incredible achievements recently came to light through a Nike TV commercial that featured her inspiring endeavours.

She is most commonly known as 'The Iron Nun' after completing an astounding 46 Ironman-length races and more than 340 triathlons throughout her later life. Sister Buder is now 86 and has no thought of giving up, with a determination you can't help but totally admire.

A record-breaking triathlete

As a senior Olympian, Sister Buder holds several records in various race distances. Here are here most inspiring records:

  • In 1996, Sister completed an Ironman in 14:27:14, fast enough to break the world record for 65 - 69 year olds.
  • After completing the 2005 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon at 75 years old, she became the oldest woman ever to complete the race.
  • A year later at 76, she set the record again and beat her previous year's time!
  • Buder has the current world record for the oldest person ever to finish an Ironman triathlon, which she obtained at age 82 by finishing the 2012 Canada Ironman.

What is an Ironman triathlon?

Sister Buder has completed 45 full Ironmans. Each one of these triathlons consists of a 2.4 mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112 mile (180.2km) bike ride, and a 26.2 mile (42.2km) run. The race has to be completed in a cool 17 hours! No wonder she's known as the Iron Nun.

Find out more about the Ironman triathlon on Wikipedia

The unlikely background to Sister Buder's story

I think the most remarkable twist to Sister Buder's tale is that she only started to run at the age 48, and even then it was only for fun. It was the suggestion of a priest, Father John, that sparked her desire to run after he told her it was a way of tweaking, 'mind, body and spirit'.

Before she ran her first official race, she told Father John she was running for a good cause (Multiple Sclerosis) but also shared her misgivings about how the world would react to a nun running a race. The story goes that Father John told her, 'Sister, I wish some of my priests would do what you’re doing', and proceeded to give her his blessing.

Running was just the beginning. At age 52, Sister Madonna completed her first of many triathlons, and at 55 she participated in her first Ironman event.

Proof that age is merely a number

Sister Buder's achievements are truly inspirational and break so many perceptions. Age just doesn't seem to come into the equation with the iron nun now 86 years old and still insisting she has many more triathlons to run. It's not even like she has been a runner all her life.

It's great that Sister Buder's remarkable story has gone viral and is showing so many people, both young and old, that where there is will and determination, old age and limited experience should never be a barrier.

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