top of page

the iron nun.

90th birthdays are always cause for celebration and this year, Catholic Charities is helping the Iron Nun celebrate her special day.

Spokane’s very own Sister Madonna Buder is known to the rest of the world as, "The Iron Nun". The nickname is well deserved, considering that she has competed in more than 340 triathlons and 45 full Ironman’s, which require swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2-miles. “The Iron Nun” has accomplished all of this while being a member of the Sisters for Christian Community for 67 years.

At the age of 47, Sr. Madonna started running after a priest recommended the exercise for harmonization of mind, body and soul. Since then, Sr. Madonna has tried to run or bike anywhere she goes, which most often means to a church, a school, or to the jail where she prays and talks with inmates at least once a week.

Sr. Madonna competed in her first triathlon when she was 52, an age when most other athletes retire from these types of races. Since her first triathlon, her celebrity has grown with her accomplishments, which include being the oldest human to ever complete an Ironman triathlon, finishing the Subaru Ironman Canada race at age 82.

It is no surprise that NIKE decided to feature “The Iron Nun” as the first athlete in their “Unlimited Youth” ad campaign, which highlights stories of athletes who remain highly active despite their age (see video above).

How does the Sister respond to her accolades? With humility, of course. “The only thing I succeed at is getting older, but anybody can do that, so I don’t see what the big deal is,” she once stated.

This summer, the Iron Nun is celebrating her 90th birthday, which we think is a pretty big deal.

The in-person birthday party we planned is no longer possible, but we are going to take the party to the worldwide web. Catholic Charities is hosting an online auction for Sr. Madonna’s Athletic Memorabilia. All proceeds from the auction will benefit the Nazareth Guild, SNAP, Family Promise, and Catholic Charities.

Auction items include the Cannondale Bike given to Sr. Madonna for earning “the Spirit of Determination Award” during the 2006 Hawaiian Ironman and was used in the NIKE commercial during the 2016 Olympics. Her 2013 Boston Marathon Shirt and Medal will also be up for auction.

The auction begins Friday, July 24, 2020 at 11AM and ends Sunday, July 26, 2020 at 11:59PM. The online auction will be available at Please email or call 509.459.6170 for more information.



bottom of page