Sister Madonna Buder (Photo: Nike)
Sister Madonna Buder (Photo: Nike)


Don’t ever underestimate the 86-year-old Iron Nun

Sister Madonna Buder has completed 45 Ironman races

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By Hannah Varrall on

“This is a bad idea, sister,” shouts narrator Oscar Isaac as 86-year-old nun runs towards the freezing sea in a sleeveless wetsuit. She yells back, “The first 45 didn’t kill me,” and we fall hopelessly and deeply in love. 

Sister Madonna Buder runs, cycles and swims, and is known as the Iron Nun after competing in more than 40 Ironman triathlons, widely considered to be the toughest in the world. She began training when she was 48, completing her first triathlon at the age of 52 – she’s now completed more than 300 triathlons, and Ironman has had to add new age brackets to its competition as she gets older. This week she become the star of a new Nike video.

Sister Madonna says she “trains religiously” and has released an autobiography titled The Grace to Race. When asked how she trains for these events, she brilliantly replies "I just boogie.” 

The sister’s video is part of Nike’s latest campaign, Unlimited Youth, which intends to celebrate “everyday” athletes who push “beyond the imaginable”.

Faced with women like this, people often say “if she can do it anyone can”, but I for one am happy to bow down and say, I will never live up to this. You go, sister. Good luck in number 46. 


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Sister Madonna Buder (Photo: Nike)
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