The Best of iRunFar in 2020

Well, that was a year! Courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has been a challenge for everyone. iRunFar was certainly tested this year, but we are proud to have made it through and excited to head into 2021 together.

While some things are perhaps best left behind in 2020, so much good also happened. We publish an article like this each year, where we reflect on the highs of the iRunFar community, but now more than ever we feel it’s meaningful to focus on the positive.

Let’s begin with a massive thank you! Thank you so much to the outstanding team that makes iRunFar happen. iRunFar continues to be a huge group effort, and it takes all of you to do all of this. We are also so grateful to all of you who read iRunFar and contribute to meaningful community discussion in the comments section of our articles. Truly and simply, iRunFar is here for you! And the hugest of thanks to those of you who support iRunFar financially. It is not an exaggeration to say that your financial support helped us make it through 2020.

Now, let’s look at iRunFar’s basic statistics for this year. As you know, what we do at iRunFar is typically divided into two main elements, our regular website material and our coverage of the 10 or so most globally competitive trail races and ultramarathons. With those races on hold since the beginning of March, we had to get creative with 2020. Here’s a summary of what our year looked like instead:

  • Our 20-person writing and editing team created 321 articles. As the pandemic shut down the world and our sport, we decided that, come heck or high water, we would maintain our regular weekday publishing schedule with our regular writing team. In doing so, we endeavored to be an anchor of normalcy.
  • We presented race coverage of… just one race, Transgrancanaria on the Canary Islands at the start of March. Global shutdown took place as our team traveled home from that race, and the rest of our 2020 race coverage was history.
  • We put on two virtual events, Operation Inspiration in April and the To The Moon Relay in July.
  • We worked with several runner artisans to develop new, beautiful, and creative products for the iRunFar Store. The store has never been as big as it was in 2020! By the way, we have a huge sale going on over there right now where everything is at least 50% off. Click over, shop our gear, and support iRunFar along the way!

With the rest of this article, we dig into the details of iRunFar over the last year. From our virtual events to the articles which hopefully educated and inspired you, and from the weirdest to the most wonderful moments in the craziest of years, here is the best of iRunFar in 2020.

PS. Enjoy a time-machine visit to the past by checking out our best-of articles from 20102012, 2013, 201420152016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Support iRunFar in 2021

Join iRunFar on PatreonWe invite you to join the readers who support iRunFar financially!

You can join the iRunFar Patreon family with a monthly pledge, or support us in other ways, such as via monthly or one-time donations on PayPal or by purchasing iRunFar-branded gear from the iRunFar Store. ICYMI, we have a huge sale in the store right now with everything at least half off!

We are proud of what iRunFar is and does today, and we dream of taking iRunFar far into the future. Thanks for considering your support of iRunFar!

Our Virtual Events

With similar themes and goals, we hosted two virtual events in 2020:

Operation Inspiration

Back in April and while the world was shut down, we created Operation Inspiration with the goal of inspiring participants to do an hour of exercise on April 4. This was a real challenge in some cases as many participants weren’t allowed to leave their homes for nonessential activities! Think stairwell repeats, laps around the backyard, spinning on the bike trainer, and all kinds of treadmill running. We also wanted to raise money for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. While we were physically separate, more than 1,700 of us from 48 countries came together to do this creative challenge and in the process raised more than $52,000 for the WHO!

To The Moon Virtual Relay

We hosted our second virtual event in July, the To The Moon Virtual Relay, where for one week runners, hikers, and walkers accumulated miles however they could for a collective trip between the Earth and the Moon. The event also included daily challenges, giveaways, and kids activities. Our goals with this event were to provide creative ways for people to get outside with their family and friends, to work toward a shared goal despite the fact that we couldn’t see each other in person, and to help iRunFar through the pandemic’s difficult financial times. We accomplished all those things and had a great time in the process!

Educational Articles

Education is at the heart of iRunFar’s mission. We aim to help you be the best version of yourself on the trails and roads. Here are our top education articles of 2020:

Physiotherapist Joe Uhan’s column “Stay the Course” really stays the course! In May of this year, Joe hit his 100-column anniversary. Readers loved “Century Ride: Reflecting on 100 iRunFar Columns” and the way Joe examined his work of the past to help inform his path for the future.

“Running on Science” is coach and teacher Corrine Malcolm’s column, where she makes science accessible to everyone. One of her most interesting–and relevant–2020 articles was “Exercise and the Immune System,” which dove into the ways that exercise positively and negatively influences our immune system.

Near the end of 2019, coach Alex Nichols joined the iRunFar team with his coaching column “Always Improving.” A strong element of Alex’s coaching is how intertwined the mind and body are in our health, well-being, and running ability. While he’s written several articles about the mind and running, a reader favorite was “Embracing Intensity,” which offered tools for runners who get nervous for their harder, faster training workouts.

Best Wordsmithing

Another part of iRunFar’s mission is inspiration. We endeavor to help you create an inspired running practice and we hope some of that inspiration finds its way into the rest of your life. Here are a few articles which hopefully added a little fuel to your inspiration fire this year:

“Justice is a Habit” is an essay by philosopher Sabrina Little in her column “The Examined Run.” Her words have been essential for 2020, and for anytime, really: “Do the uncomfortable work of self-examination, and build new habits. Advocate for people in hard situations. Speak up if you hear racist jokes. Cheer for athletes who do not look like you. Donate time or money to a cause that is important. Diversify your reading list so you are not just learning from voices like your own. Stand up for someone who is overlooked. Maybe it will feel difficult to get started, but we become just by doing just acts repeatedly. This takes time and practice.”

Zach Miller penned “But What If It’s Good” at the start of 2020. His column, “Finding Words,” often finds him grappling with parallel challenges in life and running, and learning that skills developed in life help with sports and vice versa. In this essay, he writes about facing intentional life changes and dreaming of the good that can come of them.

We have two columnists who write weekly or nearly so, and one of them is Andy Jones-Wilkins in his “AJW’s Taproom” column. We are so grateful to AJW for his incredibly consistent writing efforts! One of AJW’s most relevant columns of 2020 was “Control What You Can Control,” about the oft-used ultrarunning saying and its applicability to the pandemic.

Artist Hannah Green brought her creativity to the iRunFar team in 2020, joining us with her column “Notes from the Trail.” Her first essay for iRunFar back in January, “The Muse,” is an exquisite missive to Mother Nature.

iRunFar Editor-in-Chief Bryon Powell has been writing his own column for years. Often, his articles are rumination-centric, and either expansions or distillations of thoughts that come about while running. He went in a unique direction in October with his article “iFishFar: Fly Fishing for Trail Runners.” In the last five years, Bryon has grown really passionate about fly fishing as means to adventure running, and his passion shines in this article.

Most Fascinating Interviews and Profiles

Creating connections among all members of the community is a goal of iRunFar, and we attempt this in part through interviews and profiles. Here are a couple outstanding articles in this category from this year:

We are so grateful for Justin Mock’s journalistic nimbleness in 2020! Normally at the helm of our Monday “This Week in Running” race-results article, Justin pivoted in mid-March to pen a new column for the pandemic called “Catching Up With” where he reconnected with athletes of all kinds, such as those we’d normally interview as part of our in-person race coverage, those who’ve retired or stopped racing competitively, and runners we just haven’t talked with in a while. Since March, he’s interviewed one person per week, and the collection of stories, memories, and details he’s captured is amazing. It’s hard to pick a favorite, so go thumb through the column to see which profiles strike your fancy.

Morgan Tilton is the journalist behind our “WeRunFar” column, where we profile community members for the contributions they make to our well-being and culture. Her profile of ultrarunner, race director, writer, and volunteer Errol “Rocket” Jones was a community favorite this year.

The “Age-Old Runners” series by coach Liza Howard interviews runners over the age of 45 to find out what makes them tick, how they work out, and what they think of the relationship between successful running and aging. Liza’s interview of age-group standout Blake Wood really knocked it out of the park, and readers loved learning from a guy who’s done everything from running a 5:21 mile at age 60 to finishing the Hardrock 100 some 22 times.

Journalist Damian Hall retired his column “The Long Game” at the beginning of this year, but he went out with a bang with a fascinating profile of British fell runner and trail runner Jasmin Paris.

Riveting Imagery

Imagery has the ability to transport you into a single moment in time, and being in the moment is a critical ability for our sport. Here are a few images that crossed the pages of iRunFar in 2020 which do just that:

Photo: Hannah Green

Photo: Hannah Green

Photo: Bryon Powell

Favorite Memories

Indeed, 2020 was rough enough that it can be hard to remember all of the beauty that happened amidst it. We don’t want to let this year go without a couple members of our team sharing a moment of goodness from their worlds:

Columnist Andy Jones-Wilkins’s Favorite Memory

“In July of 2020, I ventured up to Silverton, Colorado to meet up with good friend Bryon Powell for a ‘redemption run’ of sorts. Ever since my disappointing 2016 Hardrock 100, I have wanted to re-run the section from Cunningham Gulch to the finish. On a sunny July day, Bryon agreed to join me. We made the arduous climb up Dives-Little Giant pass to start the day and then enjoyed a relaxed descent down Arrastra Gulch all the while talking about the issues of the day–iRunFar, my life in my new school in Arkansas, home refinancing, and any number of other things that usually occupy our runs together. By the time we arrived back in Silverton, I felt redeemed and once again convinced of the curative power of mountain running. I wrote about the adventure here.”

AJW (right) and Bryon Powell in Arrastra Gulch. Photo: Howie Stern

Columnist Sabrina Little’s Favorite Memory

“My best running memory of 2020 is stroller running with my daughter, Lucy. She was born in May, and I have enjoyed showing her all of the roads and trails I ran with her before she was born. The year 2020 has been rough in a lot of ways, but this has been a definite bright spot.”

Sabrina and Lucy. Photo courtesy of Sabrina Little.

Columnist Alex Nichols’s Favorite Memory

“I coach cross country at Colorado College, and like just about everything else, our season was canceled this fall. Instead of letting the canceled season ruin the semester, the athletes came together with a fundraising project for the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women campaign supported by Native Women’s Wilderness. We would all run as far as we could in 60 minutes and ask for donations based on miles ran. We thought maybe we could raise a few thousand dollars, but by the end of the fundraiser the team has raised $11,261. I’m not a huge fan of running flat and fast, but those 60 minutes were some of my most memorable miles in 2020.”

Photo courtesy of Alex Nichols.

Editor-in-Chief Bryon Powell’s Favorite Memory

“My favorite iRunFar memory of 2020 is my most recent memory of normalcy: covering the 2020 Transgrancanaria back in March. Specifically, being in Teror with Canarian friends and race-coverage helpers Miguelito Rodríguez and Foncho Clemente. It was a little before midnight and the town’s carnaval celebration was wrapping up. A few dozen locals were milling about the town plaza where the last two food carts remained open. I enjoyed a simple ham-and-cheese sandwich and an espresso from one of the vendors before moving a few hundred meters away to a quaint, centuries-old main street with a large church at one end, waiting in the peaceful night for the first runners to arrive.”

Locals enjoy a bite and a sip as an evening’s carnaval celebration winds down in Teror. Photo: Bryon Powell

A mix of local carnaval revelers and Transgrancanaria spectators await the first runners on a centuries-old start in downtown Teror while Miguelito serves as a stand-in for a couple practice shots. Photo: Bryon Powell

Managing Editor Meghan Hicks’s Favorite Memory

“My favorite memory is from Operation Inspiration day in April, where so many of us from around the world virtually came together to exercise on our own terms for an hour. Shutdown rules where many participants live didn’t allow them to run normally outside. Their commitment to creatively exercising was incredible to watch via social media that day. You can still search the #OperationInspiration hashtag on your favorite social-media platform and see athletes doing strength workouts in their living room, repeats up and down their apartment building’s stairwell, running laps of their backyard, and spinning on the bike trainer. Back in April, it was hard to know just how much COVID-19 would impact the rest of 2020 and beyond, but it was abundantly clear on that day that we trail runners and ultrarunners had all the mental resilience needed to navigate the hardships coming our way.”

Call for Comments

  • What were your favorite iRunFar articles this year and why?
  • Did anything else cross the pages of iRunFar that you really enjoyed?
  • Can you share a personal best, a moment, an adventure, or an experience from either running or life that you’re taking positively away from 2020?
Meghan Hicks

is the Managing Editor of iRunFar and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.