fbpx ;

She Trains Religiously: Meet Sister Madonna, the ‘Iron Nun’

If you’re looking at your 20s or 30s in the rear view mirror and thinking you’re getting a little too old to try something new and athletically challenging, there’s someone you need to meet: Sister Madonna Buder, also known as the Iron Nun. She was recently inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame and, this weekend, will compete at the at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in an effort to become the first person her age to ever complete the race.

Oh, and Sister Madonna is 84 years old.

iron nun

She first began training in her late 40s, completing her first triathlon at 52 and an Ironman distance triathlon three years later — the first of 45 Ironman distance races she’s done in the years since. Since then, she’s racked up 11 U.S. national titles and is a 16-time world champion in the Olympic-distance, and has also claimed 12 age-group wins at at the Ironman World Championship.

She’s hoping to make that a lucky 13 with this trip to Kona, and as long as she can complete the course within the 17-hour cutoff time, she’ll be golden. Sister Madonna will be the only representative of her age group there, and, in fact, a new age group had to be created at the World Championship just for her.

Finishing isn’t an easy feat, though — just getting to Kona was tough this year, as her qualifying race earlier this year took place just 11 weeks after a bike crash that left the Iron Nun with a shattered pelvis. She prayed for a miracle and received one, healing in half the time her doctor expected, and finishing that race in time to earn a World Championship slot.

The Spokane, Wash. native has been determined to open the age group to women aged 80 and over. “I’ve tried four years now. This is the fourth time,” she told her local news station KHQ. And then? She says it’s time for a vacation: “Don’t you think I deserve it?”

Speaking as someone who recently completed just half that distance for the first time, I can say yes, Sister Madonna, you absolutely do. (And, umm, if you want to take that vacation in Hawaii, I’ve got some suggestions for you!)

If you feel inspired to track her on Sunday, you can follow her here. I know I’ll be pulling for her. Talk about a shero!

Got any kind words or inspirational quotes to share? Let’s put them out there and send Sister Madonna some awesome, positive, finish line-crossing energy!  —Kristen

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!