I Want to Be Like Her!

This is Sister Madonna Buder.

And, no, I don’t want to be a nun. 

She will be 80 years old in July and will compete in her 37th Ironman Triathlon in August.

An Ironman Triathlon for those who may not know is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 run for a total distance of 142.6 miles.  Oh, and there is a time limit overall and for each leg.  Miss the cut off time on one of the legs, and you are done for the race.

Sister Buder started running when she was 49 years old after a bishop encouraged her and other nuns to run for health.  What she discovered is that she was pretty good at running.  She ran and qualified for the Boston Marathon where she ran and finished it.  And, she just continued.  She saw a triathlon, remembered how much she enjoyed biking, and decided to train for it.  How does Sister Buder train? She runs and/or bikes to where she needs to go – in Spokane, Washington – so it’s not as if she has ideal conditions. She has snow, rain, wind, cold, and heat. Actually, those are ideal give the unpredictability of the races.

Garbanzo has been watching the replays of the Ironman World Championships that have taken place in Hawaii, and she is amazing to watch.  The people who are 35+ years old and decide on a whim to do it are amazing.  And many times, these aren’t people who stumble across the finish line and collapse, but the people who finish smiling and cheering for themselves and their accomplishments. 

But this woman, she is just amazing.  She got blown off course during the bike ride in Hawaii – a bike ride that takes them through incredibly windy lava fields – and she got blown off of her bike.  But, even with scraps, bruises and blood, she got back on her bike and kept going.  Her reaction was basically “Wow, it’s windy!” But her sense of humor shouldn’t surprise me. When asked about her training regime during another part of the interview, she replied, “I train religiously.”

No, I do not want to race in an Ironman or any other form of a triathlon.  Swimming is not something I am good at.  I can do enough not to drown.  I’m sure with a lot of work I could get there, but it’s not of interest to me.  But, I look at someone like her and wonder why I am not getting off my ass and exercising more.  I mean, this woman just integrated exercise into her life.  She didn’t have to carve out time.  She didn’t have to follow a special program.  She just did it.  And, I guess that is what I find inspiring.  I think we all struggle with trying to fit things into our lives – things we want to do.  We use the schedule as a reason we can’t do it.  I guess, to steal the overused phrase, you need to “just do it!” 

I also am inspired at her sense of fun in all of it.  When she thought about running for the first time, she recalled how much she loved to run as a child.  Same goes for biking. Instead of looking at it from the start as work, she looked at it as taking back up something she used to enjoy….just 40 years later.  What a difference that attitude makes!  I want that attitude at her age.

I also want the attitude she has when she doesn’t finish.  Or when she runs out of time.  She doesn’t cry or get angry – she smiles and says “next time”.  Then, she focuses on next time.  One race we watched, she did fantastic – didn’t even get near that midnight cutoff for the whole race.  The next race, she ran into problems and was disqualified for not making the bike leg time limit.  She smiled and said, “I guess I’ll need to be the oldest woman to finish next year.”  And the next year, she was.  Instead of blaming the youth – blaming the age of themselves – making excuses or blaming the training – she accepts it as it is and forges ahead.  Again, I want that attitude at that age! 

Oh, and the energy and health to be as active as she is.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. fast says:


  2. Man she is awesome! I want to be like her too!

    I need to get running agian 🙂

  3. Kallie Grace says:

    That is so inspiring. I should get out and do more to exercise but I always find excuses to put it off.

    She is amazing! Thank you for sharing her story!

  4. Vixen says:

    VERY inspiring!

  5. Ms Scarlett says:

    Amazing… I also hope to be running with a smile on my face like that when I’m 80!

  6. I think exercise is the key to ageing both gracefully and nicely, as well as keeping your brain in shape too. I could be wrong but that’s my theory. I wish more people would be like her. Seems like so many people age and gain a ton of weight, stop exercising and stop caring. This woman rocks!!

  7. That’s amazing. What an awesome way to be.

  8. I just laughed out loud at this:

    This is Sister Madonna Buder.

    And, no, I don’t want to be a nun.

  9. What an inspiration, particularly this time of year when we’re all making resolutions!

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