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Iron Nun Urges AZ Seniors to Make Most of Retirement

Triathlete Sister Madonna Buder, 89, a world champion in her age group, will appear this weekend at the Tri for the Cure Marathon in Anthem. (AARP)
Triathlete Sister Madonna Buder, 89, a world champion in her age group, will appear this weekend at the Tri for the Cure Marathon in Anthem. (AARP)
March 14, 2019

PHOENIX – Sister Madonna Buder is 89 years old, but don't let that fool you – there's a very good chance she can outrun you.

Buder is a Roman Catholic nun who has been both a recreational and competitive runner for the past 40 years.

But if you imagine she's just a jogger, think again. She is the world champion for her age group in the triathlon, a feat that has earned her the title of the Iron Nun.

Buder is in Arizona this weekend as an AARP Age Disruptor, and for the Tri for the Cure Triathlon in Anthem on Sunday.

She says at her age, sometimes it takes faith – and determination – to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

"Even at this stage of the game, because I've been doing it so long, it doesn't seem unnatural to me,” Buder relates. “It is a little difficult, I have to say, but the most difficulty is getting out of my bed and taking the first 50 steps."

While she has earned many accolades for her running, Buder holds the title of AARP Age Disruptor for showing that retirement can be whatever you make of it.

She has been covered on sports networks and in major publications, and she has even been in a Nike TV commercial.

Buder will not be in this weekend's triathlon, a long-distance race where participants run, swim and bike, because she is nursing a minor injury but will greet the athletes at the finish line.

A background of serving others for most of her adult life has helped her maintain a very positive outlook.

"Sometimes, there are people who are ‘top heavy’” she states. “They're all mental, and they don't pay attention to their physical condition. Then there are body builders that think of nothing else but their body. But we are supposed to be a complete being. so you cannot separate your faith from what you do."

Buder says her running, like her religious faith, helps her focus on what is important in life.

"So many people today are concerned, anxious, worried about the future, and it occurred to me that that is trespassing on God's territory,” she says. “We have no control over the future."

And if Buder inspires you, AARP is sponsoring a class for beginning runners. They meet every Thursday evening in their parking lot on North 16th Street in Phoenix. For more information, go to

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ