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How to Use the McMillan Running Calculator

By Edited Mar 28, 2016 0 0

If you’ve never used the McMillan Running Calculator the next few paragraphs may just revolutionize your running. It is a common dilemma that every runner faces before a race – “What time should I be shooting for today?” Runners know the importance of good goals. A good goal will challenge a runner to strive for greater things, achieve new heights, and earn some bragging rights at the post-race festivities. In running, nothing beats the satisfaction and even joy that comes with accomplishing a goal.

Bad goals, on the other hand, come in two forms. Either they are too lofty for our abilities, so they leave us feeling discouraged, dejected or demoralized. Or they are too easy, so that exceeding them leaves us feeling luke-warm at best. But how does one know they are setting a good goal. Thanks to the use of on-line tools such as race/pace calculators we can do a better job of doing just that than ever before.

The McMillan Running Calculator

Greg McMillan is a well-known coach and exercise scientist who has created a great online tool for predicting race performance at any distance based on actual results from a recent race. Although the exact science behind the tool may be hard to pin down, numerous scientific studies have shown that improvement in running at any distance corresponds to improvements in running at every other distance. It has even been shown that there is a strong correlation between improvements in sprint times with improvements in marathon times.

McMillan Running Calculator
The way the tool works is that you can plug in your time from a recent performance at just about any common race distance, hit the calculate button, and out will come the equivalent expected race times for every other distance from 100 meters up to the marathon. Simply select the distance from the list provided, enter your recent race time in hours, minutes and seconds (you can leave hours blank or enter 0 for times under an hour), and hit calculate. In this example the user has entered 17:30 for a recent 5k.

Get a Better Prediction or Goal for an Upcoming Race

McMillan Running Calculator Race Performances
The information you get from the calculator can be used in at least two ways. First, use it to predict your performance at an upcoming race and set good goals. For example, let’s say you ran 17:30 at a recent 5k. You are planning to run in an 8k in the near future. What time should you shoot for? According to McMillan an equivalent performance for the 8k would be 28:51.

In addition to this time you should factor in a few other pieces of information:

  • Recent training – How has your training gone since the 5k race? Have you been improving a lot or a little? Have you been feeling good during workouts and getting adequate recovery, or has the training been feeling harder and harder?
  • Course Conditions – Was the 5k flat but the 8k will be hilly, or vice versa? Was the 5k on the roads or a track, but the 8k is a cross country race or trail run?
  • Weather – If the weather will be hot or very cold, or if rain is scheduled for the 8k when the 5k was run in ideal conditions then you may need to make adjustments.
  • And you may be able to think of other factors that may cause you to be either in a better or a worse position for a good performance than you were in the 5k.

Using this information, determine how much faster or slower than 28:51 you think would be appropriate for a good goal.

Another helpful way to use the race pace information provided by the calculator is just the reverse of what was described above. Consider what your goal time is for an upcoming major race, such as a marathon or a big 10k race. Input that time into the McMillan’s Calculator to determine what equivalent times you should shoot for in an upcoming lesser race to verify you are on the right track. For example, if you are shooting to break under 29:00 for five miles and you are running in a 5k a couple weeks before that you would know that you need to run around 17:30 or so (again, factoring in the above considerations) to ensure you are on track.

Determine Correct Training Paces

McMillan Running Calculator Training Paces
But the McMillan Running Calculator does even more than just provide race equivalent times. It also provides ideal training paces for a variety of different training distances and goals. The calculator provides pace ranges rather than exact times to hit. You are provided with pace ranges for just about every kind of training run or workout you can imagine, from easy runs to long runs to hard tempo runs. You are given ideal ranges for long threshold intervals (or cruise intervals), vO2 max workouts and speed/sprint workouts.

Not only does this information help you to know how fast you should be running and training, but it also provides a helpful reminder to you of the kinds of training you should be including in your schedule.

For your convenience you can create a printable version of the results that puts everything into an easy to reference format.

Hints on How to Best Utilize the McMillan Running Calculator

The results of the calculator are not meant to be taken as Gospel. The closer the two race distances are to each other the more accurate the result will be. A 5k will predict a 3 mile race time very accurately. It will also give good results for 2 mile, 4 mile, and on up to 10k quite accurately. However, it may prove less accurate (though still quite useful) in predicting a marathon performance.

As you use the calculator ask yourself “for what distance am I training?” If you are training for a marathon, then a 5k race may undersell your ability in the marathon. However, if you’re training for shorter distances a 5k would likely predict a faster marathon than you are really ready to run.

 Another important thing to keep in mind is that, when using the training pace section of the calculator, you need to use a recent actual race performance to produce the results. Don’t use the goal time that you are shooting for at the end of the season.

Remember, just because you are shooting for a 3:20 marathon down the road doesn’t mean you are in shape to do it yet. Workout paces that are associated with a 3:20 marathon will not yield the results you desire. Instead they will lead you to over training, fatigue, stress and eventual injury. However, as you improve you should be able to gradually go faster in your workouts.

When you achieve a major PR it can be exciting to plug in that time to the calculator and see all the possibilities open up for you. As you look at the training paces, however, you should use times on the slower end of the range at first. Only after you become comfortable at those paces should you begin to train towards the faster end of a training range.

It is very helpful to race a few different distances and map each out using the calculator. You may notice a trend that will make it easier to predict future races. For example, you may notice that your longer races tend to be stronger performances than your shorter races, even though no significant training progress has been made. Over time you will learn whether you are strongest at miles or marathons, and may even discover your best racing distance.

The McMillan website provides a lot of other helpful information and tips. Greg McMillan provides several pages of information that explain further how the calculator works and how to utilize the information it provides.

In addition, Greg provides online running coaching and online running training programs. Greg is a highly respected coach and he currently provides coaching for a number of elite runners.

 I hope you will find the McMillan Running Calculator to be a valuable tool for your training and racing for many years to come.



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