Editor’s note: I want to thank Ryan Ploeckelman for his time and willingness to answer all my questions about the sudden termination of the East Coast Trail and Ultra Runners podcast and his new one, The Adventure Jogger. I had been a longtime fan of the now-defunct podcast and even won a race entry from it for a race directed by his former co-host, Sean “Run Bum” Blanton. Amid the allegations against Blanton and the end of the ECTUR podcast, I personally look forward to seeing where the high road that Ploeckelman has chosen takes him in the months and years ahead.
It’s been a fun yet hectic couple of weeks for Ryan Ploeckelman. As he was driving back from a brief visit with relatives, his phone started “blowing up.” Soon, he discovered indiscretions and allegations involving his longtime podcast co-host, Sean “Run Bum” Blanton.
The controversy began when an online fight led Blanton to alter results on Ultrasignup for some athletes who ran his races, years after the events occurred. As the race results controversy swirled, allegations came out about inappropriate behavior by Blanton targeting some female runners. Derek Murphy of Marathon Investigation has an excellent, balanced piece that details what transpired.
“When I first saw the results story, it was disappointing,” Ploeckelman says. “Changing race results for somebody four years after they finish a race because you just don't get along online is childish. Not everyone's going to like you, and it's your job to accept that. You take the high road and say, ‘God, I'm sorry you didn't have a great experience. I hope I can make it up to the future. I hope you have a wonderful day.’ That's the way you handle that. You don't take away race results.”
At that point, Ploeckelman was thinking the situation would need to be addressed on the podcast with an admonition. “I would have to call him out on that and say, ‘Well, that was stupid.’”
For his part Blanton has expressed remorse about altering the race results but in a Facebook post denies the sexual harassment allegations.
The allegations of sexual harassment and assault were the last straw for Ploeckelman. Looking back, he acknowledged that the previous 18 months had been challenging at times as his co-host had either not shown up for podcast recordings or participated in them while running, grocery shopping or being otherwise engaged.
"As these allegations were coming out, I knew that if the old podcast were to continue, it would always be clouded by those allegations, and the results changing, and all of that,” he says. “And I didn't want anything to do with that. It’s been hard over the last year and a half, when your co-host doesn't show up, or when they show up and they're eating dinner. I knew that if the podcast would continue, it would be clouded. It would always be the podcast, with the guy that was accused of this, or with the guy who did this. And I didn't want my name associated with any of that. I just knew that my connection to that podcast was over at that point.”
‘Maybe I need to continue’
While Ploeckelman quickly shut down the East Coast ultra running podcast, he did reach out to some trusted advisers including Jason Green, who appeared on it from time to time. Ploeckelman recalls telling Green that he thought it was time to terminate the podcast. “Oh, yeah, it’s done,” Green confirmed.
Green and others in the running community that Ploeckelman quickly embraced years ago were there to support him.
“With all this stuff that came out, I needed to make a break,” he recalls. “I was pretty much done with podcasts, and I was going to let someone else take it up and run with it. I could use a couple of years of not doing it anyway, and just run or whatever. But there was this overwhelming response of, ‘Hey, we really like what you do, come back, and just do it a different way. We'd love for you to continue a podcast.’ It was just constant messages. I was like, ‘You know what? Maybe I do need to continue this.’"
And thus The Adventure Jogger was born.
Ploeckelman embraced the new start and dove right in. “It was really a fun, wild two-week period of putting one thing to bed, and then leading into this new thing.”
The podcast’s name came from a couple of runners Ploeckelman encountered while running the Strolling Jim ultra.
“I overheard them use that term as a derogatory, towards people in the middle of the back of the pack. I love the term adventure jogger because it doesn't take it very seriously. I know some people look at the J word as a negative, but I think it's very tongue in cheek, and I really liked the way it sounds, and I was like, 'That'd be a great term, to take a negative term, and make it a positive.'"
New podcast, new vision
His vision for the new podcast breaks down into three areas:
One-on-one interviews with all sorts of runners: “I really like talking with and interviewing people, and getting them to share their stories, and trying to find ways to get them talk about things maybe they haven't talked about before.”
Crew shows: Ploeckelman plans to have groups of ultra runners discuss the current hot topics in the sport from time to time.
Race director chats: The third type is interviews with race directors from around the country to learn about various races from across the nation. “And get people to think, I really need to do that race. That really, really sounds amazing to me."
In addition to Green, The Adventure Jogger plans to include familiar guests such as Andy Jones Wilkins and Jeff Stafford.
The new podcast, however, won’t invite back the personal attacks, dick jokes and innuendo that was part of the previous podcast’s lineage.
“That's something I don't want to do moving forward,” he says. “I want to be a positive influence. I still want to have fun. I want to keep the conversation fun, inspiring and having a good time. But as far as I'm concerned, I don't want to pile on to anybody anymore. I’ve looked back at that. I'm not going to bring in that mentality with the new podcast."
Welcoming to all
Ploeckelman, who lives in Tennessee, has a natural eastern U.S. bias. But he won’t constrain his new podcast to a specific geographic region.
“We're going to open it up, but because of where I live, and because of doing the last podcast for three years, I know so many people that are awesome runners. The eastern United States has so many great races, so many great runners, that I'm always going to have an eastern United States bias. But I'm not opposed to talking to people from all over the country. So it can open it up a bit through some more stories, but I'm always going to be rooting for the home team.”
And by the reaction of trail and ultra runners many will be rooting for Ploeckelman and The Adventure Jogger to succeed.
“It’s tagline is, ‘Running should be fun,’ and so should running podcasts,” he says. “I hope that they can listen to it, and maybe get some really interesting things out of it, but laugh a little bit. I really hope that the conversations that we have on the podcast are conversations you'd feel like you're having with someone, like a good friend, on a long run. So, if you take us along with you, it's like going on a long run with Karl Meltzer, or Jeff Stafford, or Michael Wardian. And you can hear some funny stories, and be inspired, and just not take running too seriously, but just meet some really interesting people.”
Name: Ryan Ploeckelman
Hometown: Mukwonago Wisconsin, currently living in Clarksville Tennessee
Number of years running: 8 years
How many miles a week do you typically run: between 40 and 80
Point of pride: My kids
Favorite race distance: 100-miler
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Oatmeal and UCAN
Favorite piece of gear: My Team Dad Bod Shirt
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Easy Lover by Phil Collins and Phillip Bailey
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: Tat Tvam Asi
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
The Adventure Jogger Podcast is available wherever you get your podcasts, if you can't find it let me know and I'll fire my IT department.