Immediately after a priest remarked during a retreat that running harmonizes the mind, body, and soul, Sister Madonna Buder pulled on some old tennis shoes and began jogging. She was 48. Now, at 74, she holds two age-group records for Ironman Hawaii (13:19 hours) and three age-group records for Ironman Canada (13:16). A Catholic nun of the order Sisters for a Christian Community in Spokane, Washington, she raises money for charities during athletic events and offers encouraging words to other athletes sharing the racecourse.
Q. As an award-winning triathlete celebrated in the media, you challenge the public’s perception of Catholic nuns. Is this troublesome to others in your order?
A. Not to use a gift that God has given you is an insult to your creator. After I qualified to run the Boston Marathon, I went to my bishop, concerned that he might not approve. He replied, “Sister, I wish some of my priests would do what you’re doing.”
Q. You’ve sustained numerous injuries during grueling daily training sessions, including broken arms, fingers, hip, ribs, and a broken clavicle, elbow, and jaw. Why keep competing? A. I’m in God’s cathedral when I’m training. You cannot get out in nature and observe it and not be in constant awe of it. It keeps me alive.
Q. What advice would you offer potential triathletes?
A. Guard against negative thoughts. Last July, I had negative thoughts about someone while cycling and didn’t see the speed bump in front of me. I crashed and broke my arm. My advice to athletes is to enjoy the scenery, but keep your mind on what you’re doing.
Q. What are you training for now?
A. I’ve just signed up for the Canadian Ironman again. If I do well, I’ll qualify for Ironman Hawaii. After taking a year off to recover from injury, I’m back to competing in two Ironmans a year.