Meet Sister Madonna Buder, the “Iron Nun”

Sister Madonna Buder (aka The Iron Nun), became a legend when Nike did a feature story on her bigger-than-life fitness journey. But, like many older athletes, she didn’t start this journey until much later in life.

“One step at a time makes a marathon.”

“The only failure is not to try.”

“You either achieve or you self-destruct.”

These words to live by all come from Sister Madonna Buder. You might know her better as the Iron Nun.

Buder completed her first IRONMAN race at the age of 55. Today, at 86 years old, she has completed over 45 IRONMAN races, each comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. She’s certainly had her share of setbacks during this impressive stretch, but it’s her steely resolve to return and compete that has earned her the Iron Nun nickname.

Buder was first introduced to running by a priest at a workshop on the Oregon Coast. The priest championed running as a way to harmonize the mind, body, and soul. Buder took this creed to the extreme, which then transitioned into IRONMAN triathlons.

At age 82, the Iron Nun became the oldest woman to ever complete an IRONMAN race. She also broke the record for best finishing time for the 80-84 age group — an achievement that still stands today.

If you need inspiration to get in shape, to try something difficult, to accomplish something new, look no further than Sister Madonna Buder: “There are a lot of times when I had to think about failures and not reaching the goal that I may have set for myself. Then I realized the only failure is not to try, because your effort in itself is a success.”

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