Meet The Real Ironman: Michael McDonald To Race On Behalf Of MusiCares
In Fall of 1999, music manager Michael McDonald took the first step in his race toward a new life and, with the help of MusiCares, got sober. Two decades later, not only is he still sober, he's chair emeritus of the organization and he's training to race in the 2019 Kona IRONMAN World Championships to raise money for the organization he credits with saving his life.
"I vividly remember watching the Kona IRONMAN World Championships on television and crying because I was too hungover to fathom the level of dedication, perseverance, and athleticism," he recalls.
But on Oct. 12, McDonald will fulfill his dream and run the exact same race he saw on TV 20 years ago. And thanks to a partnership with the IRONMAN Foundation, he's raising money for MusiCares in the process – a lot of money. The aspiring ironman's charity effort blew past his original donation goal of $150k and has since eclipsed the $200k mark. This money will go a long way toward helping MusiCares deliver the necessary financial and emotional support to anyone in the music community in need.
What makes a person open his heart with this level of generosity, motivation and drive? For McDonald, getting sober has illuminated a path to helping others. "What good is it for me to be sober and not have that benefit someone else?" he asks.
We caught up with McDonald as he prepares for the big race while balancing both support for the charity as well as his duties as founder of Mick Management, to talk about sobriety, training for the triathlon, and what life is really all about: giving back.
Congrats on 20 years of sobriety. What has been the key to lasting sobriety?
The key to lasting sobriety for me has been gratitude for the life I have. I have to constantly remind myself that I wouldn’t be where I am today without my sobriety. The only reason I’m able to do what I do with the people I do is because I no longer drink or do drugs. I also rely heavily on my network of family and friends who have supported me all along. I also have a sponsor that keeps me honest and reminds me to go to more meetings!
Training for the Kona Ironman World Championships, another remarkable feat, must have involved a similar one-step-at-a-time dedication. What can you tell us about your training and preparation regimen leading up to Kona?
I’ve never thought of it like that, but it’s very accurate. I committed to the race about 18 months ago. Had I only focused on the final distances, I would have been overwhelmed. But I just did what I was told by someone who knows more than me. Week by week, I slowly started adding distance. I find when I break things down into smaller goals ("Just focus on the next 5 miles;then we’ll worry about the remaining 50"), I’m able to stay present and not get overwhelmed or dwell on the worst case scenario. Much like the 12 Steps, a lot of it is about mental strength and training. If I thought about the rest of my life being drug and alcohol free the day I decided to quit, I wouldn’t have made it. I took it 24 hours at a time.
— MusiCares (@MusiCares) September 18, 2019
You’ve credited MusiCares as the organization that saved your life. What does it mean to you to be able to give back to MusiCares so generously?
For me, this is what life is all about; sharing the gifts I’ve been given. What good is it for me to be sober and not have that benefit someone else? That’s a pretty selfish existence. I feel really fortunate to be a part of the music community. The fact that I’ve been surrounded by such incredible art and artists for the past 27 years is beyond my wildest dreams. MusiCares helped me sustain that. It’s my responsibility to help those who helped me. It’s really just that simple.
Lastly, what’s running through your mind as you prepare for October 12? Any hopes, butterflies or predictions?
Butterflies is an understatement! All I can predict is that I’ll do everything in my power to finish the race. I want to prove to myself that I can have a dream and make it come true. The process has already been a success. Awareness of MusiCares and mental health, addiction & recovery can always use another voice, and this has helped. This will help improve the lives of others. The generosity people have shown with contributions is overwhelming. Truly. The support of the music community further proves that it truly cares about its creators. My friends and family have shown up in ways I never imagined. When I think about the race, I honestly only think about the finish line.
Donate here to support Michael McDonald's race in the 2019 Kona IRONMAN World Championship on behalf of MusiCares.