iRunFar Goes Fulltime! … 1 Year Later

iRunFar.comOn May 8th of last year, I took the biggest, scariest step of my life. No, it wasn’t the first step in a race or the start of a run across Afghanistan. It was me walking out of the law firm where I’d work eight years for the final time. With that step, I was self-employed. iRunFar was my job.

Those who don’t know me well might not realize quite how big a deal this was. You see, I’m about as risk averse as anyone you’ll ever meet. I will usually stick with an unbearably miserable, stressful situation simply because I fear that the alternatives, no matter how unlikely, might be worse. I’ve been risk averse in everything from most major life decisions to how I run my ultras. Then, this once, I went all in on a long shot bet. It hasn’t stopped paying out yet.

In reflecting upon this anniversary, I’ll share what I left behind in my previous life before letting you know where the past year has taken me and whether I’ve seen any success.

[Although I have no intention of returning iRunFar.com to Bryon’s Public Diary, I thought folks might enjoy a little insight into iRunFar. I’ll also be reviving infrequent training updates starting sometime this week.]

Leaving is Half The Battle
To be sure, crucial gains in my life have come through subtraction. For years, I had a job the substance and format of which brought me little fulfillment. On top of that, it created more stress than I would wish upon anyone. Surely, part of that stress was self-inflicted, but it’s an understatement to say that it was not a positive work environment for me. I should have left the firm years earlier, but stayed out of fear of the unknown.

Likewise, familiarity brought me to and kept me in DC. However, the main drivers for too many folks in DC were power, money, or recognition. While I was fortunate to know many exceptions, this was the culture that surrounded me. Two summers spent in Park City, Utah showed me that this is not a given. As for weather, I had no love for DC’s drab, snowless winters (until this past winter, of course) or the four plus months of living in a sauna each year. I do miss autumn, but late September is mighty nice up in the high Sierra.

Yes, I do miss many folks from the DC area and the East, in general, but I never did get out much and have kept in touch with many despite the distance.

I also left a house that I loved, but leaving it also meant leaving behind a $3,000 mortgage payment each month. I left behind a bunch of other city-living expenses, as well. The only recurrent expenses I’m left with are a reasonable student loan payment, car insurance, my cell phone, and internet access. This is fortunate, because, as I’ll explain below, this venture doesn’t pay much. That’s ok. No matter how bad things, I’ve got the freedom that comes with having nothing left to lose. Although I’m still working on eliminating my clutter, I essentially possess my two aging computers, a Prius with nearly 100,000 miles, and a bunch of used running gear. I don’t need much more.

The biggest thing I gained in the move was time. In fact, the need for more time to devote to iRunFar was one of the biggest reasons behind the change. Quite simply, I didn’t think I could advance iRunFar any further without fully devoting myself to it.

To Boldly Go…
When I sailed out into uncharted waters at the helm of iRunFar, I had but one coaching client. While iRunFar had just over 11,000 visits in the month before all-in-day, these visits yielded all of $5 or so a month from Google Adsense, which I only kept up because it was my longest running traffic log. Clearly, neither success nor even survival were guaranteed.

What I knew I had were passion and a heckuvualotta ideas. I love brainstorming. My mind whirls frenetically if I catch the glimpse of an idea. Thanks to that, I headed to California with a grab bag of possible avenues down which I could take iRunFar. None were mutually exclusive, so I have been free to pursue as many as time and my duck tape wallet will allow.

With no hard roadmap, I’ve barreled down some paths that I’d thought of back in DC. Coaching, freelancing, and finding some corporate support for iRunFar were no brainers and ones I’ve pursued. Other ideas… which I’ll coyly omit, remain squirreled away for when my schedule opens up or my desire to pursue them is further piqued.

Of course, as I continue to immerse myself in trail running, new opportunities continuously present themselves. A few of the more reasonable such opportunities are already in the works, while a couple pipe dreams hover out on the lunatic fringe.

Successful First Year?
In looking back over the past year, I am astonished that I’ve already reached goals that I thought would take many years to accomplish.

In coaching, my first client ran a great first 100 miler, another client ran a solid 100 miler on 3 months training having never previously run longer than a marathon, and another set a course record at a long running, competitive 50 miler. I’ve enjoy helping these folks and many more… and have more clients than I could hope for. Just 7 months ago I was considering approaching other coaches to work under their brand.

I’ve never jumped fully on the freelance bandwangon and I doubt I ever will. That said, it’s been an honor and a blast writing for Trail Runner Magazine, Running Times, Competitor Running, Outside Online, and Ultrarunning Magazine. Freelancing opportunities seem to come along just about as often as I’d like and I learn a lot every time I write for one of these other outlets. One great take home lesson I did learn in law school was “write for your audience” and I embrace the challenge of pairing stories with publications and narratives with audiences. Keep your eyes open for more content with my name on it, as there are some fun projects in the works.

Then there’s my baby, iRunFar.com and its associated Facebook and Twitter content. This, right here, is the pebble that started the avalanche that forever changed the landscape of my life. It remains my largest time commitment and likely will into the foreseeable future. Why? Because, it is, in large part, my basis and launching pad for everything else. With that in mind, there was a need to generate income directly from the site. Fortunately, a few trail running companies have partnered with iRunFar and are providing crucial support. I’m gonna specifically give a shout out to Salomon and La Sportiva right now. Thank you! Without their support, I’d be going into the second half of my 24-month-to-make-it-or-not period seriously contemplating what I’d be doing after iRunFar.

Blah, blah, blah, iRunFar traffic continues to grow, blah, blah, blah. I’ll save you from boring stats, save one. As I write this, iRunFar is two comments shy of 5,000 comments! What that means is that iRunFar wouldn’t exist without all of you and that some many of you have contributed to making it the website it is today. Thanks to all of you!

Lest all of you think I’m rolling in it, that isn’t true and ain’t likely happening. While I’m happy and healthy, my net income won’t come close to breaking the poverty level this year. I’ve got no complaints and no worries. Thanks to a kind and understanding girlfriend I have a roof over my head, otherwise I’d be living out of my car, which, as I learned last summer, ain’t half bad, even if it’s a Prius with almost 100,000 mile on it. ;-)

excited iRunFar

I'm this excited by how well iRunFar's first year went and about iRF's future!

Call for Questions
As this is sort of a State of iRunFar, I’m more than happy to answer pretty darn near any question, so ask away.

Bonus
Ssshhhh…. I’m holding a contest where I’ll be giving a iRunFar Headsweat hats to two readers who are interested enough in me or iRunFar to read this far. Shoot me a quick note to let me know you’re interested in winning a hat by Friday, May 14th at 5 p.m. PDT. I’ll send the hats anywhere in the world.

There are 70 comments

  1. Rick Gray

    Mike would make a great CFO. Nothing like dreaming. Byron you have certainly dreamed and I for one appreciate your sacrifices for the rest of us. I click on irunfar daily and look forward to reading, enjoying and learning. Thank you and I look forward to the many years ahead!

  2. Peter

    Byron, thanks for iRunFar. great site that i find myself clicking on daily. my new atayne shirt you sent has quickly become one of my fav t's to wear. so comfortable. thanks

    p

  3. Brad Williams

    Bryon let me first just say that was more inspiring than any grand story of any ultra race or trek I've ever read. Also, I might just have you beat when it comes to fear of the unknown and unwillingness to leave what is certain. So, for you to do what you've done means a lot to me. I might not quite be ready to pack the Jeep up just yet and follow suite but you never know what the future may hold. Keep up the great work and I know continued success will come your way.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Thanks, Brad. You're too kind! I guess I could kinda see what I've done as an ultra. I've love the views, but it's long, hard work that certainly challenges me from time to time.

  4. Sara Montgomery

    Hey Bryon, This is a great 'monday morning at the office' read, let me tell you! I'm a big fan of what you do, and as always, find your story so inspiring. Hope to cross paths with you again some time in the near future.

    Sara

  5. olga

    Dang, I didn't make it #5,000! Should have skipped that track workout:) Dood, congrats on being happy. At the end, if you truly are, it's a "make it or brake it" without quantitative approach.

  6. Patrick

    Always nice to see someone living their dream! I say "livin' the dream" most days at work in an incredibly sarcastic way!

    Alright, here's a question for you:

    What races are on your "to do" list that you've yet to make it to?

    1. Bryon Powell

      Great question, Patrick. I'm not sure that I've ever pondered it, so this is an off the cuff response.

      In the US, I think the race that I haven't run that I'd most like to run is Hardrock. After that would be Miwok and maybe White River because of their significance. I'd also love to run one of the races at Bighorn and Tahoe Rim someday.

      Abroad and topping my list are the TransAlpine Run and the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. The Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset, Annapurna 100, and Wicklow Round would also be on my dream list.

      How about you?

  7. Jorge Fernandez

    great story! big fan of irunfar.com! keeps me motivated for my trail running goals!

    Dips on the Headsweats hat!!!

    cheers!

  8. Nrmrvrk

    A self-started venture AND a great guy. Makes me want to support your site/business even more. Congrats on the journey so far! Loved your Miwok coverage via Twitter too. I was checking obsessively all day.

    1. Bryon Powell

      I love covering races live. They are certainly highlights on my schedule. You're continued support makes that possible! (Oh boy, I just sounded like a NPR fundraiser, didn't I?! ;-) )

  9. Jason D.

    Congrats! Always inspiring to see someone following their passion.

    I'm going to run my first ultra this year and I was thinking you need a new area of the site for all us first-timers: iWantToRunFar. ;)

    Here's to another great year to come!

  10. crowther

    Thanks for sharing, Bryon, and good to see you (too briefly) at Miwok. This post made me wonder how many people can claim to be making a living off of ultramarathons (racing, coaching, RDing, writing, etc.) My draft of a list, which could be 100% wrong, is: Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, Karl Meltzer, Greg Soderlund, Ian Torrence, and you. What do you think?

    1. Bryon Powell

      Meltzer shovels snow, so he's out.

      Add Krissy Moehl as of a few weeks ago. She's now a professional trail runner.

      I don't know her well enough to say for sure, but what about Tia Bodington of UltraRunning Magazine?

      The folks at Pacific Coast Trail Runs?

      Would Zombie Runner count? Yeah, it's retail… but built off ultramarathons.

      Lisa Smith-Batchen and Jay Batchen… or are their activities too disbursed to count?

      I know very little of Mike Spinnler (JFK RD) or Howard Nippert (coach), but they may have significant enough incomes from ultrarunning to warrant another look. Really, I'm just throwing out two names here.

  11. Ham Tyler

    Congrats on your accomplishments this past year. As a trail runner with a lawyering problem, I continue to feel your past pain as I sit in an office not to far away from DC and attempt to shuffle more paper out than comes in. My mind wanders often to the mountains and trails and I cannot wait until the weekend when my body will catch up. You were right to do it when you did. Once life gets hold of you too much, it is much harder to do with wife, 2.2 kids, mortgage, etc.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Hi Ham,

      Hopefully you can find a good balance. You're right in that I could not have made the leap with I had a mortgage or kids. As I don't have plans for either of them, I've got a pretty open horizon for making iRunFar float.

      1. Ham Tyler

        I switched over to the government about 10 years ago after 9 years of private practice, so I don't have the billable hour pressures. I have a few miles of trails I can access at lunch if it gets too bad. I like the site!! Keep up the good work.

        MMT this weekend so my mind is really wandering.

  12. Mark

    Plain and simple, you are the man. Leaving the safe corporate job is a bolder step than the first step of the Western States. OK, I've never done the Western States so I'm only guessing.

  13. Donald

    Awesome stuff here, Bryon – congrats on what you've accomplished so far. I sympathize with every word you wrote about risk aversion, and I totally admire your ability to take that bold step that so many of us can't. Best of luck in growing iRunFar over the long term.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Thank you, Donald. I was in kind of a unique position to give this a go. If I had any obligations or anything but the most basic needs, this would be a no go. I'd be having serious discussions with Meghan about taking a legal assistant job at the dietary supplement company I'd long wanted to work for.

  14. Dylan Beadle

    Congrats!

    I took a similar career-changing plunge a year ago as well – left publishing to become a full time iPhone/iPad developer. Very cliche, but I made decision after I completed my first marathon when I found out I could do anything I set my mind towards. Gladly, it seems my success mirrored yours! :)

    Big Sur (a couple weeks ago) was my second marathon) and I'm going for my first 50k this weekend (Whoo's in El Moro)! Thanks in part to the awesome stories and inspiration you post!

    Keep on running!

  15. Madhu

    Way to Go Bryon – you have built a great community and a very resourceful website.. Congratulations on your first step and good luck with everything..

  16. Brett Rivers

    Congrats Bryon on following your passion, keep on inspiring us with great stories and content! See you on the trails soon, and lets do some Yosemite/high Sierras exploring later this summer.

  17. Jeannie

    Wow! Congratulations on an incredible first year. Honestly, if you had asked me 12 months ago how irunfar.com could have been improved, I wouldn't have been able to think of anything & yet here I am a year later totally impressed by the many improvements and enhancements. You have great vision & I hope your success continues. Thank you for providing such a rich resource — oh, and I would love to win a hat:-)

    JS

    1. Bryon Powell

      Thanks, Jeannie. Fortunately, I've had some great friends help me out along the way. Not only that, I've had plenty of complete strangers give me great feedback. The only things I can take credit for are being open to new ideas and working hard to make them happen. I hope all is well with you and the family.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Jon, I'm glad you enjoy the site and the Twitter updates so much. I'll be back out on the course for part of Western States this year. I'm not sure what other races I'll be livecasting until The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships in December. Time to find someone to send me to France for UTMB. :-)

  18. Thomas Tan

    Bryon,

    Kudos to you for pursuing your dream and follow your heart. You know what they say–It's not a job when you love what you do! We should all be so lucky… Here's wishing you continued success with iRunFar.

    Thomas

  19. FruityRunner

    As someone who has recently decided to leave corporate life, your post couldn’t have come at a better time. Congratulations on your first anniversary and I look forward to the many more to come!

  20. Trail Clown, Arlingt

    Well, as one of those who you positively influenced during your DC days (albeit just for a short while, near the end), I can definitely say how cool I think it is that you've navigated the first year so well. You've created a sweet niche in the ultrarunning world, and I think the site (and your megamillions) will only grow from here. Keep up the great work, and stay healthy so you can run all those dream races…Charlie M.

  21. ken michal

    Fantastic post, Bryon! It's awesome to see that you're living your dream!!! I hope this will inspire others to do the same!!!

    Congratulations on a killer first year!

    All Day!

    ~Ken

  22. Grae

    Congradulations Bryon, It looks like your big risk was the right move for you. It seems like your happy. I continue to enjoy reading iRF now and in the future. I'm sure it will continue to grow.

    I also enjoyed your Twitter of MiWok. Maybe you will be able to cover more MUC races and other big ultras in the future. A series sponsor could pay you to Twitter their event? There's an idea! Your knowledge of the sport adds to the quality of the Twitter. I dug the pics too!

    Good luck to you in the future, Grae

  23. Steve Pero

    Congratulations on your first year of being truly a roaming ultrarunning hippie! I love it! I noticed your Janice Joplin comment in there, too…"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" ;-)

    I've known you for a long time from our days back in the VHTRC, we were almost team members on the Goats until iRunFar stole you away…you are living the life I would love….I'll just wait another 8-10 years to retire and start then ;-)

    Best of luck in year #2!

    Steve

    PS: I'll run Hardrock for you this year, how's that ;-)

  24. Clynton Taylor

    Congratulations on surpassing your goals Bryon. Fantastic news. I'm very happy that you followed your dream and are making it happen. You're an inspiration to many. Keep up the great work!

  25. MikeC

    Bryon big congrats on emancipating yourself. I dream to do the same someday.

    2 things:

    Will you be at Western States posting like Miwok? Setting up for a great race. I'd love to get updates.

    Also I live in Anchorage, we have some awesome trails. If you ever want to come up here I will show you around, room and board on me!

    MIKEC

  26. knix05

    Congratulations for your website. In french we say : " Tu as trouvé ta voie " ! If you want running UTMB I could help you ! Perhaps we could see you this summer when I discover Yosémite NP.

  27. Stack

    Congratulations and Happy Anniversary! The cool thing about this sport is the people that surround it. You have a knack for writing, know your subject and write great posts but the followers & people that leave comments add to the draw of your site.

    Keep it up and I hope to read your year 2 article with even more milestones and goals met!

    Let us know if you ever make it around Charlotte!

  28. Bryon Powell

    Grae, I'm glad you're enjoying iRunFar and the livecasts from events. I'd love for some RDs or series sponsors to support me in covering their events. I may have to quote you in any pitches. :-) I've seen some lame Twitter livecasts and hope to always provide insight that a corporate representative won't be able to have. Next time I'm broadcasting, be sure to let your Twitter followers know. The more followers I have the more likely that, in the end, I'll be able to do what you suggest!

  29. Bryon Powell

    Thanks, Steve. The Joplin paraphrase might be a bit cliche, but it's true. I feel empowered by what I lack.

    Keep dreaming of the life and make it as soon as you can!

  30. Bryon Powell

    Mike, I'll be at Western States and will broadcast through Michigan Bluff. After that I'll be pacing Andy Jones-Wilkins from Bath Rd to Green Gate. If I don't end up pacing him (I'm coming back from injury), I'll cover the entire race.

    I'd love to hit the trails with you up in Alaska!

  31. Bryon Powell

    Knix, I'd love to run UTMB as soon as possible. This year, I wouldn't be ready to run, but would still love to come cover the race. I'm still looking for support to make that happen as I can't afford the airfare. I hope to run with you in Yosemite this summer. It's fantastic!

  32. Stuart

    Superb read Bryon and super story too :)

    Well done on completing your first year – hope you get plenty more anniversaries and plenty more success!

    Stuart (followed a similar route!)

  33. L3vi

    Hi Byron,

    Well done for the website, doing well.

    If you plan the Wicklow round seriously, I live here in Dublin at the moment and planning to do so, just let me know if you need some help in organising or a running partner on the "course ". (It is a self attampt "race", carrying all your stuff, under 24h., there are not really trails or anykind of roads overthere so it is tough, but at the moment there is 17 hours of daylight what might make it a bit easyer, but the rain is constant :D still)

  34. CJ

    Bryon,

    Great reading this post for the first time, even a year and a half later. Wow, look how far iRunfar has come even since your one year anniversary! Really love your work and effort as a fellow trail runner. My wife and I can relate somewhat to your life change as we launched into living full time in our 1986 Toyota RV November 14. We're renting out our house in Ohio for now. We're in Florida for the next month or two where the nights aren't quite as cold :-)

    Looking forward to crossing paths again (I met you on the trail in the Kendall Mtn Run)

    Happy New Year!

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