What Matters to BRYON POWELL

March 29, 2012 |  by  |  What Matters

This is the third in a series of brief conversations looking at What Matters to people who are really taking on their lives. My aim is to uncover what matters to them deeply. To expose their foundational passion.  If this conversation interests you too, let me know and share it with others who matter to you. Today we’re looking at…

 What Matters to BRIAN POWELL                            

In 2009, Bryon abandoned a promising career practicing law in Washington DC and moved cross country to live in the Sierra near Yosemite. His aim was iconic—to devote himself full time to iRunFar.com, a trail running and ultra running website.

Ultra running is a niche community that, with some exception, has happily remained obscure to the general public. Yet ultra running’s intelligent, eclectic and ofttimes eccentric devotees embrace trail running as a serious lifestyle. Their connection to the sublime value and camaraderie gained by spending hours running in the woods, is palpable

With ‘The Suit’ left far behind and as a trail runner for two decades, Bryon now offers trail fans of all distances extensive event coverage worldwide, gear reviews, and cutting edge viewpoint from a variety of experienced contributors. Through Bryon’s bold efforts, the diverse ultra running community now has an information force to be reckoned with.

A true pioneer in the ultra running world, Bryon also frequently writes about trail running for other media outlets including Trail Runner magazine, and is the author of Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons.

But WHAT really MATTERS to this accomplished ultra runner, trail lover and visionary entrepreneur?


Terri: Bryon, you left a career as an attorney and moved across the country to live in the mountains and start a business covering and promoting one of the least understood endurance sports in America—ultra running.  What matters the most to you in your life right now that caused this chain of events that altered the direction of your life? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that word be?

Bryon: Peace. That’s what I was in search of when I set forth from DC. I’d just spent four years working full-time while attending law school at night and then two and a half more years as an associate at a boutique law firm. For six and a half years, I had few moments when I wasn’t doing something that needed doing. On top of that, my job was remarkably stressful and anxiety inducing. As a result, even in my few down moments, I couldn’t find peace.

I thought that quitting the law gig, moving west, and working for myself would give me more time and more peace. I was only half right. I probably work more now than when I was an attorney. However, I do that work with a great deal more peace. Sure, there are plenty of frantic moments and, occasionally, stress and anxiety, but those are now the exception rather than the rule.

What matters to me most at the moment? Community. Periods of injury during my time as iRunFar‘s editor have shown me that the trail running and ultrarunning communities mean as much to me as the running itself. While community gives me an inward satisfaction, I also see it as my primary job. Everyday, I’m driven to help build the trail and ultra communities by curating content that inspires and educates people about these pursuits. In trying to assist the community, I see myself more as a community hub than anything else. I provide a place for both iRunFar’s contributors and readers to come together to share their thoughts. That is where the magic happens.

Terri: What does that sense of peace offer you mentally, and what do you do daily to generate it? What would you recommend to someone who struggles with grasping peace in their lives?

Peace allows me to relax and regenerate, two things I’m awful at doing. In fact, I’m dreadful at creating peace in my world on a daily basis. That’s why it’s been so important to create a superstructure for my life that eliminated factors that detracted from my peace. I may not be able to step out of a moment (or, perhaps, be in the moment) enough to create peace on the fly, but I can shape my world to be more peaceful in general.

I think people often lack the desired level of peace in their lives, but feel helpless to change things. They’re not. You’re not. Whether on a grand or minuscule scale, it IS possible to create a more peaceful life. Look to see what elements of your life are unrewarding, stressful, anxiety-inducing, or simply a waste of time. Immediately make the small, no-brainer changes. You will quickly be rewarded with more peace. If there are huge issues (jobs, relationships, finances), know that you can always change your situation… even if it takes time.

My job and life in the Washington, DC area were killing me. To many, it appears that I went the desert (to run the Marathon des Sables), decided to U-turn my life while out there, and did so when I returned. That’s true, but it’s not the full story. For a number of years, I’d known that the attorney life, as I lived it, wasn’t necessarily for me. At least a year before I quit my job, I recognized that my then blog, iRunFar, was a means to building relationships with the outdoor industry and, therefore, a possible means of starting a new life in a new community. I was far from certain that I would take that option, but I worked even harder than before on the website so I’d have the option. When, a year later amongst Morocco’s Merzouga Dunes, I decided I needed that more peaceful life, the preceding year of countless late nights gave me the means to improve my life. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.