Catholic nun makes Ironman history – again.
SPOKANE, Wash. — Next week, some of the toughest athletes in the world will compete in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Among them will be an 84-year old Catholic nun from Spokane who is about to make Ironman history – again.
Sister Madonna Buder’s story is part of Ironman lore. She says a message from God got her to take up running at age 49. 35 years and hundreds of races later, she’s still going strong and has opened up several Ironman age groups for women. She says she keeps herself busy on the grueling Ironman course by keeping up a constant dialogue with God.
“When they say ‘you’ve got God on your side,’ I say, so do you! You just have to refer to him,” Sister Buder says.
When she crosses the finish line at Kona next week, she’ll be the oldest Ironman finisher in history. She’ll win her age group, no question. She’s the only competitor, after all.
Her goal? “Finish. Just finish and get it over with.”
Her Ironman path has been trailblazing, for sure. The obvious question: when will she stop? Sister Buder says it’s up to God to decide. But, you could argue she’s received some pretty strong hints about that already.
One hint came in Boston in 2013. Sister Buder was at mile 21 when the bomb went off.
“I just went numb… I was in shock,” she says, of learning what had happened that day. “After that, everything seemed trivial. What we were doing seemed crazy, in compared to the reality of the situation.”
But, life would go on – and, so would she. Until another hint from up above one year later. She crashed on a routine bike ride in Spokane.
“I thought when I got my fractured pelvis on March 15th that he was giving me a strong message.”
A fractured pelvis would sideline athletes half her age. But, you can’t keep a good nun down. Six months later, Sister Buder says she’s finally feeling back to normal, ready to complete the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run alongside some of the best in the world. She says she doesn’t understand why people think she’s such a big deal. Part of the humility that comes from being a nun, perhaps.
Competing now is harder than ever, but she’s still going. After all, she has history to make, more age groups to open and more of God’s creation to enjoy.
“There are all sorts of things you can learn and you learn them from being out in nature. Which is what I love about the sport.”