Product Review: McRun Running Calculator iPhone App

We take a closer look at the mobile version of the McMillan Running calculator.

We take a closer look at the mobile version of the McMillan Running calculator. 

Every Saturday I sit down in front of the computer for a few hours to write training schedules for the 15 runners I coach. The range of ability levels for the athletes I work with spans from relative newbies and recreational runners to competitive age-groupers, Boston qualifiers and an Olympian. As you can imagine, the range of paces these athletes train at varies just as much, and oftentimes it can be tricky to switch gears after writing one schedule for someone training to run a 2:15 marathon and another who is trying to cover half the distance in the same amount of time.

When I’m working on training schedules, you’ll usually find three tabs open on my internet browser: e-mail on one, the athlete’s spreadsheet on another, and lastly the McMillan Running Calculator, a handy tool developed and popularized by exercise scientist and elite running coach Greg McMillan. The calculator has been one of my most valuable reference resources over the past eight years for calculating equivalent race performances and determining pace ranges for various workouts. As convenient as the calculator is, however, switching back and forth between tabs can be an annoyance, as well as an easy way to lose my train of thought when plugging in workouts. Not to mention that if I’m not in front of my computer, it can be difficult to make quick calculations should I need to amend a workout for someone on the fly.

So, you can imagine my excitement a few weeks ago when I got an e-mail informing me that a mobile version of McMillan’s tried-and-true calculator called McRun was now available in Apple’s App Store for $2.99. I snatched one up right away, and right away I was impressed. The intuitive interface makes inputting and interpreting data a breeze. Enter a recent race performance on the home screen and in the snap of a finger the app spits out a list of equivalent performances at other distances, as well as a range of paces for everything from easy runs to long runs, as well as popular interval distances and tempo runs. When calculating pace ranges, the app also accounts for the strengths of the runner, giving you a readout for speedsters (those who have more speed than stamina) and endurance monsters (those with more stamina than speed). Best of all, I can now write training schedules for my athletes without ever leaving the screen that has their spreadsheet on it, as I can now quickly calculate paces in the palm of my hand while keeping their workouts right in front of my eyes!

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So, how can the McRun iPhone app and the McMillan Running Calculator benefit you? Well, if you’re a coach, the story in the preceding paragraph may sound familiar. In short, it will make your life easier, especially when you’re on the go. If you’re an athlete, and are confused about the goal time you should set for an upcoming race or don’t know how fast you should be doing your long runs and track workouts, this app takes out all the guess work.

Let me know if this situation sounds familiar: A couple weeks ago you (or an athlete you coach) ran a 5K and posted a personal best of 19 minutes (or whatever your time happened to be), which got you excited for some upcoming races this fall, when you hope to tackle a half marathon for the first time. The trouble is, with this newfound level of fitness you have no idea how fast your upcoming workouts should be, or what kind of goal time you should aim for in the half marathon. Enter the McRun app, or better yet, enter your recent race time into the McRun app as displayed in the photos at the top left of this page. Based on your 19:00 5K, the equivalency calculator tells you that a sub 1:28 half marathon is a realistic possibility. Pressing on the workout tab at the bottom of the screen will recommend to you what paces you’ll need to run in upcoming workouts to get there. Scroll through the photos above to go step-by-step and screen-by-screen through all the options and workout ranges that the app has to offer. For those of you more tied to the metric system, the app even converts paces into kilometers.

Tomorrow afternoon I will sit down in front of my computer with a cup of coffee to set goals, write training schedules and adjust workouts for my athletes with the help of the McRun app on my iPhone. For the price of a couple cups of coffee, you can take the guesswork out of goal setting and make your own workout planning easier, too.