Sister Madonna Buder, an 84- year old Roman Catholic nun proved there’s no such thing as ‘can’t’ when she broke the record (again!) as the oldest woman to complete an Ironman this year.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan magazine after completing the 2.4mile swim, 112 mile cycle and 26.2 mile run, the fun-loving nun known now as the Iron Nun says her fitness can be largely attributed to the fact she likes a bit of a ‘boogie’.
Buder had a late entry into sport, taking up running at the age of 47. Just five weeks later she ran her first race having just attended a workshop given by a priest who expounded on the benefits of running for the body, mind and soul. Realising she was a pretty good runner, Buder set her sights on the Boston Marathon and the rest as they say is history.
It was in her running club that Buder first learned of the Ironman in Hawaii. The idea of the gruelling course did cause her concern – how would she manage the claustrophobic swim not to mention sit on a saddle for hours on end? But her ultimate conclusion was ‘why not?’
So at the at the age of 52, Buder completed her first triathlon, in Ireland of all places, in an era before wetsuits. She recalls the course as hilly (she was riding a second hand men’s bike she picked up at a police auction) and the water as ‘darn cold’, but she completed it and so her love of triathlon was born.
After this initial taste of the sport Buder set her eyes on Hawaii where she became the oldest woman to ever complete the course. Seven years later at the ripe old age of 82, Buder entered the record books again at Ironman Canada where she became the oldest woman on the planet to complete an Ironman.
Buder, like many of us is a very busy woman. She squeezes her training into suit her busy schedule, running to church and to the local jail where she reads scripture to inmates while she rides 40 miles to a lake for her swim training.
Buder estimates that she has completed a staggering 366 triathlons, 45 of which have been Ironman events. And despite her age, she has no intention of stopping any time soon. Fuelling her body with raw fruit and vegetables, incorporating protein powder and small amounts of carbohydrate into her diet as and when it is needed, the Iron Nun looks at least twenty years younger than she actually is.
And if anyone dares question if she’s too old, she’ll say you’re only as old as you think you are:
“If you don’t think age and you just get up and do and you think you’re a teenager, well, you’ll start to act like one,” she said. “And you also find out that you never get too old to learn new tricks.”
Want to know more about the Iron Nun? Why not check out her book, The Grace to Race which is available on Amazon.
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