Meet the 82-year-old `Iron Nun`, who has completed over 340 triathlons - almost one every month for 30 years
This spirited Washington-based senior has completed more than 340 triathlons - 45 of them the notoriously grueling "Ironmans" - and she only started when she was 48.
"People often ask me how I train for these kinds of these arduous events," she tells Cosmopolitan magazine. "And to that I say, "I just boogie.""
The Iron Nun: Sister Madonna Buder (pictured) has finished more than 340 grueling triathlons in her life, and she only ran her first race when she was 48 years old
Sister Buder says she was never "into" running as a child, but she was clearly born with a determined streak from the start. She decided she wanted to become a nun at the age of 14, and by the age of 23, she had entered a convent near her home in Missouri.
She later transferred to the Sisters for Christian Community in Spokane, Washington State, where she didn"t take up running as a hobby until she was 48 years old.
When, a short while later, she approached her bishop, Father John, to seek his approval on whether it was OK for her to enter a race, he replied: "Sister, I wish some of my priests would do what you"re doing."
The deal was sealed then and there, and Sister Buder ran her very first 8.2 mile race, "ass-backwards" she says, because the only place she had ever trained before was on a tennis court.
No excuses: Sister Buder, pictured at the Hawii Ironman World Championship at the age of 77, didn"t have her own bike, so trained for the race using her nephew"s bike instead, during visits to her Missouri home
After that, she joined a running group, where she thrived on the group mentality, and it was here she eventually learned of the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii.
Her first thoughts were of how claustrophobic she would feel swimming along with so many others, her second was that she couldn"t conceive of sitting in a bike saddle for so long, and her third was that she simply had to try.
The steely nun competed in her first triathlon in Branbridge, Ireland, at the age of 52. The course was hilly, she swam in the "darn cold" water (before wetsuits had been invented), and she was riding a second hand men"s bike she had scored from a police auction.
Nevertheless, she finished the race and cooled off with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
Omen: The spirited nun, pictured here blessing a fellow athlete before a 2007 race, took part in the 2013 Boston marathon and was twice "randomly" urged to memorize a police officer"s phone number before the bombings
Omen: The spirited nun, pictured here blessing a fellow athlete before a race, took part in the 2013 Boston marathon and was twice "randomly" urged to memorize a police officer"s phone number before the bombings
Next stop: Hawaii, where she broke world records as the oldest women ever to complete the course. She practiced on her nephew"s bike during visits to her parents" home in Misouri during the run-up, and ended up finishing just one hour before the race"s 17-hour cut-off time.
Sister Buder says it was here she first earned her "Iron Nun" title, but it wasn"t until seven years later, when she finished the Ironman Canada race in 16 hours 59 minutes, that she become the overall Global Ironman record holder.
Asked how she trains for these triathlons, she says she runs to church every day and bikes 40 miles to swim in a lake near her home.
She also jogs to her regular visits at the local jail, where she reads scriptures to inmates - an activity which she says makes her feel "so blessed" to come home from.
As for her diet, Sister Buder sticks to a mostly raw diet of fruits and vegetables, but incorporates carbs and protein powder into her meals, and she says she "listens" to what her body tells her it needs.
I love the feeling I get when I whiz past people younger than me and they say, "I want to be like you when I get to your age!"
Well, not entirely. The keen athlete admits she fractured her pelvis in a recent bike accident, but as well as water jogging at the YMCA while she heals, she also hits the elliptical trainer - "probably" against her doctor"s wishes.
It"s clearly a hobby she feels she can"t let go. "I don"t know what I"d do without running!" she exclaims.
"I love the feeling I get when I whiz past people younger than me and they say, "I want to be like you when I get to your age!""
And while she cherishes the opportunity to be a source of inspiration to others, claiming she races now mostly out of "camaraderie", she does have certain fellow-runners place her a little too high on the pedestal.
"[Some] treat me differently because I"m a Sister," she confesses. "I feel like they think I"m supposed to be their mascot and pray for good weather for us or something."
Not every race she has run has been a blessing however. Sister Buder ran in the 2013 Boston marathon, where she recalls receiving an all-together spooky omen in the hours before the bombing disasters struck.
Book deal: Sister Buder has written an inspiring book about her life
The morning before the race, she was approached by a police officer who gave her his card and told her to call him if she ever needed anything. Thinking little of it, she thanked the officer and held on to his card.
A little later, a young boy approached her out of the blue and said he thought she should "memorize" the phone number on the card. She took the child"s advice.
As she was approaching the 21st mile of the race, she heard sirens and noticed fire engines begin to rush to the scene. Panicked and "numb", and unsure of what to do or where to go, she remembered the police officer"s number and called it.
The officer navigated her out of her confused and terrified state and she says that while her heart "broke" for those injured and killed, it taught her a valuable lesson about "paying attention" to her instincts.
Asked what she would say to her younger self if she could go back in time, Sister Buder says her advice would be to live by what you "do" rather than what you "say" and to always focus on how old you "feel" not how old you actually are.
Finally: "Patience" she says, admitting that she still struggles to slow down, and to "stop and smell the roses."
Meet the 82-year-old `Iron Nun`, who has completed over 340 triathlons - almost one every month for 30 yearsMeet the 82-year-old `Iron Nun`, who has completed over 340 triathlons - almost one every month for 30 years