Three Years of Living iRunFar

iRunFar’s Editor-in-Chief looks back at his first three years working full-time on iRunFar.

By on May 22, 2012 | Comments

Two weeks ago, I hit my three-year anniversary of making iRunFar my full-time job. As with all anniversaries, this provided a natural place to look back on the journey that has been and to look forward to what may come before future anniversaries.

The Past Three Years
All journeys contain the unexpected. Perhaps I’ve not always been the best at dealing with the unexpected in my life, but I left Washington, DC embracing the unexpected more than ever before. I had to. I was doing something that no one else had, which meant I had no path to follow, no model to emulate. I had brainstormed a list of projects that, when combined, /might/ just allow me to cobble together a living. I accepted that I’d try some of those projects, ignore others, and jump into just as many I’d never imagined. I gave myself two years to “make things work” and, since iRunFar is still here, it’s clear that I have.

Still, my life is far from that which I expected.

Professionally, I’m shocked both by how quickly and how large iRunFar has grown. What was a good month’s traffic when I was considering going all in with iRunFar would now only rank as a normal weekday. No longer does a well-received article get half a dozen comments  mostly from folks I know. Instead, dozens or hundreds of runners from around the world might chime in with their thoughts. The growth of the iRunFar community is one of the biggest shocks I’ve experienced over the past three years and the considerate discussions that follow are one of the things I enjoy the most and am the most proud of about iRunFar.

In leaving the legal profession and moving out West, I fully intended to live a much more relaxed, tranquil life. Ha! Even before I was jetting around globe covering races, I worked longer hours on iRunFar than I did as an attorney. By the time I moved to Utah a year and a half later, I was working from before breakfast until near midnight nearly every day, including the weekends. Over the past half year, we’ve added many more writers to the iRunFar team. Even though that’s helped take the pen from my own hand, the greatly increased publishing frequency on iRunFar – we went to five days per week at the start of the year and quickly started publishing more than one article many weekdays – has yielded no easing of my work schedule. iRunFar isn’t a 9-5 job, it’s a 16/7 job. Nearly any task – and, particularly, a business – can take up as much time as one allows it to, but I’m surprised that (1) iRunFar could fill every minute of all my days and (2) that I’ve let that happen.

Without a doubt, I expected to train more and be in better shape that I ever had been before in my new life. That’s not happened. If anything, I’ve routinely been in the worst shape since shortly after I started running 20 years ago. That’s been a major disappointment. I did deal with one injury setback – 6 months with moderate plantar fasciitis – in the past 3 years, but there’s no good reason I’ve not trained more or taken the time to do the other things I’d love to do to supplement training (sleep more, eat better, stretch, cross train, etc)… unless working on iRunFar is a good reason. There have been times where I’d consistently skip runs to work more, like when writing Relentless Forward Progress, and even though I now run everyday, I routinely cut runs short to fit in more work. My non-commitment to training means I’m painfully out of shape at the moment; enough so that I will not be running the Leadville 100 this year. I have no interest in running the race this year unless I could run very well and that’s an impossibility with less than three months left to train. As a result, my calendar is bare of any serious race commitments.

The Future
Back to the positive! Despite the negative consequences /I/ have chosen to accept as part of my work, I couldn’t be more excited to continue to make iRunFar even better in the coming months and years. I’ve got great ideas regarding future content, structure, and partnerships. The implementation of my dreams is only limited by time and finances.

Part of growth is learning to recognize and overcome one’s shortcomings. One of my major shortcomings is giving up control. That’s normal enough, but it’s a major problem once what you’re taking on is literally impossible for one person to do. That’s where iRunFar is right now. I’m proud to have grown comfortable welcoming many authors onto iRunFar, but, ultimately, I’ve still acted as a gatekeeper with full control before those authors’ thoughts hit your computer. To create a better iRunFar… and a better life for myself I will need to pass along many other tasks to others with full faith in them. In other words, I will have to let go. That will not be easy.

iRunFar sprung from my own love for running. This August, I’ll hit 20 years as a runner. In April, I passed my tenth anniversary as an ultrarunner. Five years into my running, I had a runner tattooed onto my leg. I knew that even if I never ran another step that running had added so much to my life that I’d never regret that tattoo. I feel confident that I could say the same thing about getting an “iRunFar” tattoo. That’s not going to happen, because, even if it wouldn’t be completely lame (it would be), that runner on my leg just as readily embodies iRunFar.

If I look forward for iRunFar, I need to look forward with my own running in mind. I am determined to recommit to my running. At the moment, that means NOT racing and NOT seriously training. I want to run without pressure, without plans. I want to run for the simple joy of it, because I want to. That’s not to say there’s not an alterior motive to this plan. There is. I DO want to be back in shape. In fact, I think I can be in better trail running shape and far better ultrarunning shape than I’ve ever been in before. However, 4 or 6 or 8 months of falling back in love with running will put me in a position to train with passion… and with a training base.

Just as important as rebuilding my endurance base over the coming months is restructuring my unsustainable life. During law school, I learned I could work without end. I could work my 9-5 job, go to night school, and study after that before sneaking in a midnight run before more studying. I could do that for weeks and months on end without any diversion. Weeks on end with four or five hours of sleep were within bounds. Working through the day after an all-nighter is little challenge. I learned of these awesome powers ten years ago and I’m still using them for iRunFar. However, power is nothing without control. It’s time to put the genie back in the bottle.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 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.