iRunFar Goes Fulltime! … 1 Year Later

Bryon Powell, Runner-in-Chief of iRunFar, looks back at the first year of working on iRunFar fulltime.

By on May 10, 2010 | 70 comments

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 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, 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.

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.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.