Every Friday For The Past Two Years

AJWs Taproom[Editor’s Note: As surprised as Andy Jones-Wilkins is about the passage of time, we are even more so. We hope you’ve enjoyed AJW’s ruminations leading the way every Friday for the past two years as much as we have. Thank you, AJW, for your hard work and we look forward to your future philosophizing!]

This column marks the second anniversary of AJW’s Taproom, an idea born out of the minds of a couple ultrarunning geeks over beers at a rural Virginia brewery back in September 2011. We’ve seen some growth and change in the sport over those two years, including on the journalistic side, and we have also experienced the ups and downs of any small, start-up operation. However, what we felt so strongly two years ago, we feel even more today today: there exists a strong thirst for a resource like iRunFar in the running community and AJW’s Taproom has provided one way to quench that thirst.

At the core, iRunFar is Bryon Powell’s baby. He works up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week to produce this website and, to be honest, lives a simple and frugal existence to make ends meet. By his side is his partner and better half, Meghan Hicks, herself a talented writer, skillful editor, and accomplished runner. If you have not yet made a donation to support the work of these two incredible people, please do so now. Click here and contribute something, anything, so that we can continue to enjoy in-depth race coverage, thoughtful content, and engaging discussion that has become the gold standard of online ultramarathon journalism.

As far as AJW’s Taproom is concerned, I can’t believe I have been doing this for two years. One article a week for over 100 weeks. What’s up with that? Some of the columns have been pretty good, others not-so-good. Some thoughtful, reflective pieces, other analytical, occasionally opinionated pieces. I’ve enjoyed the ride and have found that the opportunity to sit down and pen something once a week has made me a bit more disciplined, focused, and thoughtful than I may otherwise be. And, the discussion afterward is always fun.

I encourage all of you who are interested in this column to contact me with ideas for future columns. I also welcome comments, constructive criticism, and ideas. Perhaps you’d like to read a profile of your favorite runner or hear others’ thoughts on their favorite places for a meditative run? Don’t be shy; the most fun part of writing AJW’s Taproom is sharing the joy of ultramarathon trail running with people from around the world. The focus of the column remains true to it roots: to explore topics that you would share with friends out on a long trail run or sitting over beers at your local taproom.

Bottoms up!

 AJW’s Beer of the Week

Devil's Backbone - Vienna LagerThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Devil’s Backbone Brewery in Nellysford, VA (the brew pub where AJW’s Taproom was born). Their Vienna Lager is a smooth drinking classic lager with a touch of sweetness that is hearty and not too filling.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What have been some of your favorite AJW’s Taproom columns over the years?
  • What topics and ideas would you like to see AJW write about in the future?
  • As AJW said above, AJW’s Taproom is meant to be an online manifestation of conversations/discussion topics for the trail or the bar. Do you have any good stories of sharing a run or a beer with AJW in real life, and the real-life AJW’s Taproom conversation that was a part of it? If so, share!

There are 39 comments

  1. Brooklyn

    The Taproom is one of the best parts of iRunFar and I look forward to it every Friday. Keep up the great work!

    While you do a great job covering big, prestigious races like Western States, one thing I think would be nice going forward is an occasional spotlight on the other end of the ultra spectrum: small local races. To me, that's the heart of ultrarunning. Events put on by regular folks who just love running. No prize money, no big name athletes, just a dozen people out running in the woods all day. I think it would be cool to occasionally spotlight some of these races and the amazing people that put them on.

    1. Mic Medeska

      Though at first I agreed and started writing a full paragraph showing my approval of your statement, the more I wrote the more I found myself typing reasons as to why it wouldn't work, and I've switched my opinion. Bryon/IRF can't make it to every race out there, so I appreciate the fact that they just pick the Big Boys to attend. So then you're left asking for guest submissions to write in, well now they've got hundreds of race reports to review and have the challenge of picking and choosing which ones get priority. The biggest factor for me though: the reason I like IRF is the lack of bloat. I don't come here for review after review or report after report, they cover the quality products, the quality races, and quality topics. I don't want to see IRF bogged down with articles I skip over just to get to the quality ones.

      My recommendation, start your own blog and ask for submissions, then ask IRF to link to it in their sponsor squares

      1. Johnny

        Maybe instead of spotlighting small, local races. It would be nice to read about different local trail running groups around the U.S. – at least, the ones with a long history.

        1. swampy

          I like that idea. VHTRC, CAT and WVMTR come to mind. I think AJW might even know a few folks in those groups. I also like the idea of spotlighting running spots in readers' towns.

  2. Andrew

    I think the website is great and a real good read.

    Maybe some more profiles of top runners from around the world – how they train, motivations would be good.

    Also I think the videos that Seb Chaigneau does in his getting ready for series are brilliant and a similar idea may be an idea

    Finally to raise more cash I think when there are the competitions to predict race winners people should pay to enter. maybe $1/£1 a go with up to 5 goes per race. With the great prizes on offer I'm sure people would gladly buy a go or 5.

    Anyway all the best and thanks to all for a really great resource

    1. Greg

      I, for one, would not have any problem paying a dollar (or even five) to do the prediction contests. Not sure if others would be willing to, but there's at least one that would.

  3. CDG

    I'd really like to learn more about the older history of the sport, say pre-1990s. Gordy's story is pretty well known, but there's just a wealth of untapped material there. Your discussion of Jim O'Brien when Dom Grossman was chasing his record would be a good template. I know you have such a respect for the history of this sport that it seems a natural source of Taproom discussion.

    And yes – congratulations on two years!

    1. T.S.

      +1 on this — ultra history is fascinating and inspiring, and AJW would be a great person to delve into this field. The profile of Dom was probably my favorite Taproom entry ever and I'd love to see more in that style of interviewing a low(er)-profile runner who is working amazingly hard to go after a big goal. Dom is one of the best and most inspiring in that category, but some others I can think of to interview Eric Lee on Nolan's 14, Jared Campbell on WURL and the Millwood, Jorge Pacheco on AC (7 finishes, 3 wins, right?), and/or Diana Finkel/Kirk Apt on Hardrock. In other words, playing on AJW's appreciation for the little guy/gal with the big project.

      Another Taproom post I would like to see would be one on education and running. I know AJW is an educator (school principal, right? Still at a Quaker school or just used to be?) and has sons who run cross-country, so I would be interested to hear some thoughts on the way in which schools in the US encourage or dissuade kids to run (in general or certain distances). Personally, I only started to really enjoy running – and began to get interested in ultras – when I distanced myself from the mindset of "You need innate leg speed/turnover to be any good at running, and only distances sub-10k matter to anyone." I think this mindset is indicative of our wider cultural unwillingness to sink our teeth into anything that we're not genetically predisposed to doing well without a lot of hard work. Ultrarunning is a terrific counterweight to this unwillingness, but we're a niche group that doesn't have much effect on 8-18 year olds. I wonder what it would be like to try and give younger people an appreciation for the fact that you can still be a great runner even if you aren't a lauded 5k star.

      In any event, thanks iRF for hosting AJW's column, and thanks AJW for writing them. I look forward to each week's entry and often wish that they were longer. I've been meaning to donate for a while now and this has forced me to put my money where my mouth is.

      TS

  4. Anonymous

    Each month, draw a random name from someone who has donated to IRF and do an interview (consistent 10 question format). Often there are great stories behind 'average' people.

    1. Duane VanderGriend

      That's what I was thinking. More about average people, as in average speed. This hobby is too good for the journalism to focus 98 percent on the top 2 percent. I read IRunFar daily, and love it, but I miss the inclusiveness that used to be more prevalent in ultrarunning literature. Don't get me wrong. I love to read about the amazing fast folks and what works for them, and I love seeing the humanity in their efforts, but I feel that something is being lost-something in the ultrarunning writing that used to say that older and slower folks could excel in this arena because of the way distance rewards perseverance and because distance was a reward, not solely speed over distance.

  5. Danilo Torres

    Can you check the donation link? It was not working for me.

    Otherwise, great job and I look forward to reading your columns for years to come!

  6. quosh

    I am not an ultra-runner. I'm an English fell runner who very occassionally approaches marathon distance.

    But I would have to say that, over the last 2 years, I have come to regard AJW as the best writer on running, and how it fits into our wider lives, that I have ever come across. And he understands beer!

    I would like him to write about the tribal nature of running; and the cultural traits that have grown around different types of runners.

    1. AJW

      Quosh,

      Thanks for your kind words. The notion of the tribal nature of running and the various cultural components that make the sport so unique have intrigued me for years. I will try to find ways to integrate some of those themes into future columns.

      AJW

  7. Anonymous

    For many years my day started with the New York Times…that was a long time ago, now my day starts with…well, you can guess!

    The spotlight races and runners generally get their share, I'd like to echo the calls for a little more light on the shadows — there are so many incredible, "ordinary" people doing extraordinary things and their stories always inspire! Yet, these people remain mostly invisible, which in some cases may be what they want, but…?

    Looking for a name? I'd love to learn more about how it is that Hans-Dieter does what he does — is this guy even human?

    Thanks,

    JV in SD

    (PS — And yes, I recently donated and intend to donate again…)

  8. brandon

    Thanks for the weekly Taproom columns. You all are onto something special here with irunfar.com. Best of luck in the future. Donation submitted : )

  9. Adam S.

    AJW – I always look forward to your Friday column. Something I would be personally interested in reading is your thoughts (and other folks thoughts) on how you managed to continue in the sport with young children. My wife is pregnant with twins and I am trying to plan on how I will be able to be there to help but still be able to get out there for the longer days.

    1. AJW

      Adam, Congrats on your twins on the way. It'll be the best time of your life. I will write on the family/job/running thing sometime soon but my immediate advice is, involve the family in running as soon as possible. My two sons crewed me (with their mom) at my first 100 in 2000 and we haven't looked back since. They were 3 and 1 at the time and now they are 15 and 13 (and there's a third who's 10) and they are treated like royalty every year at Michigan Bluff

  10. Fejes

    AJW–great stuff! My only constructive criticism is hoping to see little more track/road ultra discussion in addition to the trail ultras. Also expanded multiday coverage though I understand the popularity of both lag significantly behind trail at least in the states. Also little more light shining on east coast/ southeast happenings. Otherwise a solid A !! Thanks for your great work!! Very informative.

  11. Jonathan

    I, too, enjoy your column and look forward to reading Friday while my kids are working quietly on their assignments. Since you are a teacher as well, I'd like to read how you are able to juggle your job and family with running. I would also like to read about the history of our sport and about some of the running legends, like Horton. I would also like to read about race directors and the various races they direct. I am a history buff and enjoy background info.

    Keep up the great work!

  12. Alex

    Andy,

    I enjoy your column too.

    Some topics I would be interested in for future reading, especially with your humorous and informative writing style:

    -How can I make my pursuit and passion for trail running "greener" and more environmentally friendly and what are some of the ways other runners achieve this, and how many runners actually think about their impact and footprint (pun intended) when it comes to buying/using equipment, travel, racing, stewardship of their local trails, interactions with other wilderness users.

    -How do you think the "trail runner" mentality has changed and evolved in the last 30 years, and what are the major influences, past and present, in the ultra-running sub-culture?

    -Can you imagine an ultra world with no races? What would that look like, how would it affect the direction of the sport and the approach taken, or would it?

    -How do you think the internet, twitter, GPS enabled watches etc, and developments in technology in general in the last 20 years have helped and hindered the ultra-running scene and community?

    Thanks, looking forward to more Fridaze!

    -Alex

  13. Charlie M.

    I would like to see one–or a series of–AJW Coffee Table books (pictures of puking, pictures of mangled toes, pictures previously hidden from us) and then also a Memoir that runs (pun intended) at least 1,000 pages. And then maybe a Compilation consisting of your Tap Room and other editorial pieces.

    And then you could quit your day job! :)

  14. AJW

    Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions. I will certainly get going on historical pieces, connections between running and education, parenting, and the regular folks who make our ultrarunning community so extraordinary. I am going to steer clear of book reviews, however, and stick to using some of the things I read as a jumping off point for some of the typical taproom themes. Again, thanks or the fwedback!

    And PS — I am working on a book but it'll be a while til it's ready for primetime.

    1. Barry

      Congratz on 2 great year's Andy. Been fun reading your posts from the UK. To the whole IRF crew keep up the great work. This site continues to be a great resource ans inspiration to all us "crazy" mile junkies

  15. Ted

    Am a world class cheapskate but had to make a donation.

    Great articles, interviews, and race coverage. Always look forward to reading articles / watching videos to keep me fired up to get out there and get after it (albeit at my own pedestrian pace), and to remind me why running is awesome.

    Thank you for this great corner on the interweb.

  16. CJ

    Always enjoy your ponderings AJW…between your running experience and academic background, you always seem to put together some insightful columns. Looking forward to what the future holds

    1. Tim

      Agreed, it's one of my favorite parts of iRunFar…well worth the donation. Thanks AJW! I'm also lucky enough to be a denizen of Central Virginia, so it's off to Food Lion to track down some of Nelson County's finest brew…

  17. Andrea

    Love your column! It's always thought-provoking and inspiring. I look forward to it each week. I'd love to see articles on technique improvement, health, destination trails, inspiring runners (like average people who work and have families who still manage to find time to train and do well in races)…

  18. Aleksandar

    Awesome column / resource. Ideas:

    – time crunched training ideas

    – inspirational books, films, blogs …etc

    – running culture – how to build/promote

    – debunking myths & advertising

    – need vs want (gear, gadgets, training)

    – aging, running, racing & evolving goals

    – benefits of running beyond the trail

    – how to involve kids/family in running

    – directing a local race/ event

    – innovative thinking from other runners, groups, events, organizations, visionaries

Post Your Thoughts