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Don McGrath – Surfing Serendipity’s Waves

by Don

Since I just got back from vacation, I thought I’d take a detour away from writing about athletes over 50, and focus this post on a topic that I am the world expert on – ME! Most of you who read this blog, haven’t met me in person, although maybe we’ve talked on the phone.  I hope this gives you a glimpse of the person at the other end of the ethernet cable that you get this blog through.
Photo by Kirk Donaldson Photography

Photo by Kirk Donaldson Photography

I’m originally from Scotia, NY, a small town near Albany. I’m one of 5 kids, the youngest, and the only boy. Yes, I was spoiled growing up. I was sort of a fat littlle kid and was lucky to discover the joys of moving my body around when I was 12 or so. My oldest sister Mary Ann introduced me to tennis and I’ve managed to play at one thing or another my whole life. I was a competitive middle distance runner through college and graduate school, where I majored in electrical engineering. I was a pretty good runner, but most of my best memories from that time are not of races, but of friends, joy, and fun. I always admired the power of coaches and coaching because I saw how it shaped people’s lives, and I was lucky to have great coaches along the way. Dave Doak in high school, and Pete Todd in college.

When I was around 30, my running carreer ended when I contracted plantar fasciitis, and discovered rock climbing. I have enjoyed climbing ever since then, making great friends and having great adventures along the way. My favorite climbing partner is my wife Sylvia. We have such great adventures together, I can’t imagine a life without her.

photo by Kirk Donaldson Photography

photo by Kirk Donaldson Photography

So here I am at age 46 writing a book about athletes over 50. How’s that? I blame it all on Sylvia. I still remember the night Sylvia and I were staying at the Hotel Denver in Glenwood Springs, CO for my birthday a couple years ago, and Sylvia was feeling she needed a career change. She had been working in an office for most of her career, and as a single mom who raised her two boys herself, never got to choose what she worked at. She did what she had to. Aftre a couple martinis I suggested, just quit! She did, and went to culinary school in Boulder, CO, where she lived away from home for 6 months. Her being away gave me idle hours, and to make a long story short, I decided to write this book. So it’s all Sylvia’s fault.

So by day, I’m a Director of Engineering at a high-tech company, managing chip design teams around the US and in India. By early morning, night, and weekend, I’m a wanna-be author who is having a blast meeting, learning from, and writing about athletes over 50. This project is the best project I have ever worked on, by far. I am so excited every day to get upand work on it. Beyond the book, it has inspired the 50-k Active/Athlete Challenge, which has become my personal crusade to improve the health of 50,000 people and raise the awareness that we can take Health Reform into our own hands.

If you like what I’m doing, share my passion for an active life, and want to help with the 50-k Challenge there are a few ways you can help. You can go to and register for the Challenge – simple, easy, free. You can tell others about and ask them to join. You can spread the word about and spread the word about the project and my book. This project is totally funded by me (and my understanding wife). If you want to help me offset some of my costs, you can buy my book at You can also go to the Store and buy a 50-k T-shirt, which I’m hoping will spread the word about the Challenge in a fun way.

My 50-k T (photo by Kirk Donaldson Photography)

My 50-k T (photo by Kirk Donaldson Photography)

I feel so blessed to have found an activity that has yielded me a life I love. Last time I had a physical 2 years ago my doctor actually commended me on taking care of myslef. I don’t feel like I do, really. I just climb! I also feel lucky to have a great wife, great friends, and a growing following that gets what I’m trying to do through my books and the 50-k Challenge.

Thanks and Dream Big!


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