Sister Madonna Buder is a nun on the run.
Technically, she's a nun on the swim and spin, too. The 86-year-old, record-setting triathlete has completed more than 340 triathlons, including more than 40 Ironman challenges, since she started running at the ripe, young age of ... 47.
But years before she pounded the pavement, Buder found and followed her path to the Catholic Church.
Buder knew she wanted to become a nun when she was just 14. By age 23, she entered a convent called the Sisters of the Good Shepard in St. Louis, where she'd been born in July 1930.
Eventually, she left a formal congregation to establish a new and non-traditional community of nuns, Sisters for Christian Community, with 38 others from a whole host of backgrounds. As a member of this non-canonical group, Buder and her sisters lived independent of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, giving them the freedom to choose their own ministries and lifestyles.
During this time, Buder stumbled across her hidden athletic potential — and, soon enough, the finish line of her first race. "It wasn't until I was about 47, 48 that I was introduced to running," she told Nike in a recent video. "Well, actually by a priest!" According to Triathlon Inspires, that priest's name was Father John, and he encouraged Buder to pursue running because it would be good for her body and mind. Though neither knew it at the time, that priest would soon become a kind of prophet.
Four years later, Buder — then 52 — competed in her first triathlon.
Since then, she's only gotten stronger, faster, and, frankly, awe-inspiring. In 1985, she completed her first Ironman World Championship triathlon in Hawaii at age 65. Ten years later, she became the oldest woman to ever complete an Ironman triathlon.
At 82, she set another world record by becoming the oldest person to ever complete an Ironman triathlon.
By this time, Sister Buder was well known on the triathlon circuit as the "Iron Nun."
To this day, Buder hasn't lost the steely resolve that got her the famous nickname.
Even after being inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2014, she isn't sitting on her laurels. On the contrary, she hardly sits at all. Every day, she runs to church and bikes 40 miles to swim in a lake near her home.
"There were a lot of times I had to think about failures and not reaching the goal that I may have set for myself," she continued in the video. "Then I realized, the only failure is not to try." Her continued dedication to her goals proves anything is possible, and at any age.