There were more than 5,400 triathletes who competed in the 2018 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships last weekend, but you’d be hard pressed to find one as impressive as the 88-year-old “Iron Nun.”
Otherwise known as Sister Madonna Buder, the Roman Catholic nun of 65 years from Spokane, Washington ran across the finish line while waving to adoring fans and throwing her arms up in the air to celebrate another great race, this time in Cleveland, Ohio. By finishing the Olympic distance race (a 1.5 km swim, a 40 km bike segment and a 10km run), she took the top spot in the 85-to-89 female age group.
“What I’ve experienced here is everybody’s graciousness and hospitality,” she told Cleveland.com following the event.
— USA Triathlon (@USATlive) August 12, 2018
Tackling that kind of race at 88 and seemingly enjoying the competition is one thing. It’s another to have more than 340 triathlons and 45 Ironmans under your belt after only stepping into the sport at 52 years old.
She began running at 47 after speaking with a priest about its benefits. A few years later, she completed her first triathlon.
Then, at 75 years old, she became the oldest person to complete the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
So, how does the busy nun do it?
“Once I’m out of bed, the first thing I do is run to mass. Literally. It’s about 4 miles, round trip. From there, I might run errands—again, running from one place to another to log miles,” she told Prevention. “Almost every day I run to the jail, where I visit with inmates. When the weather is nice, I’ll bike about 45 miles roundtrip to a lake near me and then swim about a mile or so. Because I never really know what my schedule will look like—I do a lot of volunteer work and end up going where I’m needed rather than sticking to a set itinerary—I squeeze in my workouts whenever I can and wait for nature to tell me what to do.”
People call her an inspiration all the time. But, it’s still a title she doesn’t understand.
“What’s all the fuss all the time?” Buder told the Tampa Bay Times. “It never ends! I’m just a little old lady doing her thing. I’m an inspiration? I don’t get it.”
She may not “get it,” but apparel giant Nike sure does. That’s why they released a fun spot on her in 2016.
Keep trucking, Sister.