Sister Madonna (right) and me at the 2007 Runner's World Heroes Banquet
Five years ago, I was feeling uninspired. It seemed as though my life, while good, was stagnant. I was driving to visit some friends and prayed a very simple prayer: “I need to be inspired.” That was it. That was enough. (Every time I have put this simple request out to Spirit, BIG opportunities show up).
I walked into my friend’s home and saw a newspaper clipping with the headline, Second to Nun, 75 year old Catholic Nun, Sister Madonna Buder earns world record in Ironman 75+. I was stunned. The Ironman?! That is a 2.4 mile swim (in the ocean), 112 mile bike race, and a marathon (26.2 mile run)! One after the other.
Visions of my life, 25 years earlier came back. I was living in Concord, NH raising a small child, and training for my first marathon. I had increased my mileage to 40 miles a week and just couldn’t continue. I felt I was not a fast enough runner and I could not imagine how embarrassed I would be if I finished in over 3 1/2 hours. So I quit training and was never going to run a marathon….until that day 25 years later. If a 75 year old woman could finish the Ironman, I could run a marathon…couldn’t I?
Training was brutal. I had been a runner for all of those years but had not raced or timed myself in years, and my daily runs had gone from 6 to 4 to about 2 miles a day. I still figured I was running about 9 minute miles. I timed myself and was sure that either my car’s odometer was off or my clock was broken. I could not be running 14 minute miles..that was walking …not running. But I just knew I was going to do it. If a woman in her late 70s could do the Ironman, I could run a marathon.
I registered for the Toronto marathon which was 6 months away, in September (it would be a few days before my 51st birthday) and started building up the miles. After a month, I found Sister Madonna’s address and sent her a letter and a small check…thanking her for the inspiration. I never expected to hear from her. She wrote and thanked me! She said that she received many letters asking for help but few sending her money. This was the beginning of our friendship.
My life has been so expanded by this little prayer on a winter’s morning. Sister Madonna continues to inspire me (she turned 80 last summer and is going to run the Boston Marathon in April)…I will be with her, not running but just being a support…I run too slow for her. I’ll keep you posted by this blog. In 2007 Runner’s World named her one of 13 Heroes of the Year, and she was allowed to bring one guest (an expense paid trip to NY)…she asked me. How is that even possible? What an amazing thing this life is when we ask for more of it!
p.s. I finished my marathon in 5 hrs and 45 minutes…tired, sore as anything and filled with a great sense of accomplishment and a new and beautiful friendship which was the real gift. We just never know what great things await us when we ask.
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