iRunFar Goes Fulltime! … 1 Year Later

On 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. ;-)

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.

Bryon Powell: is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com. Having spent nearly 20 years as an ultrarunner and three decades as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. He calls Silverton, Colorado and Moab, Utah home.

View Comments (70)

  • Let me know when you are ready to hire a CFO.

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  • 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!

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  • 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

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  • Great recap Bryon! Keep it going!!

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  • 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.

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    • 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.

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  • 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

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    • Sara, I'm glad you liked the story. It would be great to meet up with you and Derrick on the trail sometimes soon.

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  • 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.

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    • Olga, the track workout was a wise choice. This post will be here for a while... and there's always comment 10,000 to shoot for!

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  • 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?

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    • 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?

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  • I've been thinking of bundling some CDOs, can you help with that?

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

    Dips on the Headsweats hat!!!

    cheers!

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  • 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.

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    • 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?! ;-) )

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  • 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!

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    • Great idea, Jason!

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  • 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?

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    • 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.

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  • Congrats, Bryon! We support your choice 100%, and love working with you! Happy Anniversary!

    -Amy & TNF crew

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    • Thanks, Amy! Likewise, it's been a pleasure "working" with The North Face and its athletes!

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  • 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.

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    • 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.

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      • 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.

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  • Cool deal Bryon. Thanks for sharing. I hope iRunfar continues to grow for years to come.

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  • 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.

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    • Thanks, Mark. The first step at Western is easy and exciting... it's the downhill steps after mile 90 that get ya!

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  • Great post.

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  • Congratulations! It's wonderful accomplishment. Good luck with growing this site even more.

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  • 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.

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    • 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.

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    • Ps. Let me know next time you're up in Yosemite. I can pop into the park pretty much any time.

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