Nike ‘Unlimited Youth’ TV spot features religious who is triathlete at 86

| August 22, 2016 | 2 Comments
Eighty-six-year-old Sister Madonna Buder, a Sister of Christian Community in Spokane, Wash., is seen during a Nike commercial. Known as the "Iron Nun," she has completed 45 triathlons. CNS photo/courtesy Nike

Eighty-six-year-old Sister Madonna Buder, a Sister of Christian Community in Spokane, Wash., rides a bike for a Nike commercial. Known as the “Iron Nun,” she has completed 45 triathlons. CNS photo/courtesy Nike

With every Olympics, summer or winter, the 24/7 coverage usually includes stories about the oldest athlete in history to compete in this sport or that sport — and “oldest” usually means 31, 35 or perhaps early 40s.

But Nike has launched a new TV campaign that features someone a lot older than that who is still active in her sport: 86-year-old Sister Madonna Buder, a Sister of Christian Community from Spokane, who is a triathlete.

She is featured in Nike’s “Unlimited Youth” ad campaign that has been running through the Summer Olympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro.

“It wasn’t until I was about 47, 48 that I was introduced to running — actually by a priest. I’m Sister Madonna Buder, known as the ‘Iron Nun,'” she says in a short video interview released in addition to the TV spot.

“There was a point where I did not want to see a pair of running shoes. Then triathlon came in. That was a salvation,” she explains. “There were a lot of times I had to think about failures and not reaching the goal I may have set for myself. Then I realized the only failure is not to try because your effort in itself is a success.”

Eighty-six-year-old Sister Madonna Buder, a Sister of Christian Community in Spokane, Wash., is seen during a Nike commercial. Known as the "Iron Nun," she has completed 45 triathlons. CNS photo/courtesy Nike

Eighty-six-year-old Sister Madonna Buder, a Sister of Christian Community in Spokane, Wash., is seen during a Nike commercial. Known as the “Iron Nun,” she has completed 45 triathlons. CNS photo/courtesy Nike

She has completed 45 triathlons. Currently, Sister Madonna holds the world record for the oldest person to ever finish an Ironman Triathlon, which she earned at age 82 by finishing the Subaru Ironman Canada Aug. 26, 2012.

Sister Madonna’s cheery disposition, unbounded determination and quick wit carry her through the tough circumstances that are typical of each Ironman competition. Cheers of “you go, girl” and “way to go, Sister” have spurred her along at each race.

The one-minute-long Nike TV spot opens with a still photo of her in her running togs, wearing medals and surrounded by trophies. Then comes footage of her wearing her religious habit and kneeling in a chapel. When the narrator introduces her as an 86-year-old sister, she turns and says: “Shhh.” She’s in the middle of prayer.

Next she is seen going for a morning run. “Good for you, Sister,” the narrator says. Then she is swimming in an open body of water. “She’s still active at her age. That’s … great,” the narrator says hesitantly. As Sister Madonna rides her bike on a curvy country highway, the narrator says, “Whoa! Maybe a little too active. Naptime, Sister?” She looks directly in the camera, shakes her head and says firmly: “I don’t think so.”

In the last scene, wearing a body suit, she is in a huge crowd of fellow swimmers heading for open water during a triathlon. “What! What? An Ironman? Wait! Oh no, no, no, no, no. This is a bad idea, Sister! A real bad idea!” comes the voice-over. “Relax! She’s the Iron Nun,” says another voice. “But this is the Ironman. … She won’t make it!”

As she runs into the water, Sister Madonna yells back: “The first 45 didn’t kill me!”

“You’ve done 45 of these? OK, do your thing, Sister, do your thing,” says the narrator.

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Category: Faith and Culture, Featured

  • Charles C.

    From an article rightly praising her physical prowess:

    “What’s the take away from Madonna Buder? I think it is this: we can do
    hard, seemingly impossible things with some dogged determination and
    perseverance, but we can move mountains with the grace of God found in
    its fullness in the Church!

    Madonna Buder is not a nun and is wrong in
    portraying herself as one, but she is still an amazing athlete. Let us
    pray for Madonna, and the women of her community, that they may once
    again participate in the fullness of life and grace within the Church.”

    The Sisters of Christian Community, to which she has belonged for 45 years is, not a Canonical order.

    But she’s still an amazing athlete. Way to go, lady.

    • Bridget

      Why is the Catholic Spirit writing such glowing words about a fallen away Catholic. This is ridiculous!!!