Race-Coverage Revolution

AJWs Taproom[Author’s Note: Since the inception of AJWs Taproom in October 2011, Bryon and Meghan have allowed me full editorial license each and every week. With the exception of line-item editing to capture my many typos, they do no content editing and have, in essence, given me free reign to write whatever I want each Friday. The reason I am noting this today is that the column below represents my views and my views only. And, knowing Bryon and Meghan, they would probably prefer I publish something else. But, tough luck, this is my column so here goes.]

Back in December of 2009, after a long season of racing which included four 100 milers, I traveled from Idaho to the Bay Area to run The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. At the time, the race had been around for a couple years and was really catching on with many of the fast runners in the country. A particular duel in 2008 between Matt Carpenter and Uli Steidl captured quite a bit of attention and put the race on the map.

So, even though I was pretty worn out from a long season, I thought it would be fun to see what all the fuss was about, especially as relative newcomer Geoff Roes was on the entrants list to give Uli a run for his money. I enjoyed my run, finishing around 22nd place in just over eight hours but what really captured my attention that day was the presence of my old friends Bryon Powell and Meghan Hicks. They weren’t running, of course, but rather they were scurrying around to different aid stations with their phones taking pictures and sending out tweets. Little did I know at the time that this would completely change the way ultrarunning is covered.

I distinctly remember several times during that day when Bryon would just pop out from behind a bush to take a picture and Meghan would run along with me for a few yards through aid stations asking me questions. At the time, I thought it was really cool but I also have to admit I didn’t really understand why they were doing it. The result of their work was this article.

Then, half a year later at the 2010 Western States 100, they were at it again. This time they had a few more phones, I think, and they seemed to find ways to gain access to some of the more difficult-to-reach aid stations. However, the essence of their work remained the same. They watched the race unfold, took pictures when they could, and notified anyone who cared and had a Twitter account about what was going on.

They returned to the Headlands for The North Face 50 in 2010 and have been going there every December since. Tomorrow’s race will be the sixth consecutive time that they have covered the event and their overall operation and its reach has grown exponentially. Quite simply, if you’re a race director anywhere in the world and you want your race to reach across the globe, you want iRunFar there. Period.

In September of 2011, I had the chance to ride along with Bryon as he covered the Ultra Race of Champions in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and then again in June of 2012 when he chased Timothy Olson across the Sierra Nevada in his record-breaking performance at Western States. Both times I watched in awe as Bryon honed his craft, a craft which, as far as I can tell, he invented and has now perfected.

Of course, iRunFar these days is much, much more than a Twitter handle. It has, in a sense, become the ESPN of ultrarunning. This weekend, the iRunFar Twitter feed will be followed by up to 45,000 people as well as thousands more in the CoverItLive discussion on the website. The race will be preceded and followed by a slew of personal interviews produced and published by Bryon and Meghan designed to give viewers more insight into the runners. It is not an overstatement to say that Bryon and Meghan’s innocent attempt to tweet about The North Face 50 back in December 2009 was revolutionary.

And so, Bryon and Meghan, on your fifth anniversary of race coverage and in honor of your revolution, I give you a hearty…

Bottoms up!

Champion Brewing Company AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Champion Brewing Company in Charlottesville, Virginia. Their Pacecar Porter is a perfect winter beer. Reminiscent of the early days of Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, Pacecar is a gentle drinking porter that is smoky and just slightly malty. If there was ever a beer that paired perfectly with beef stew, this is it!

 Call for Comments (from Meghan)

Thanks, AJW!

How long have you been a follower of iRunFar’s now multi-platform race coverage? Do you remember the first race you ‘watched?’