Tools We Did Not Know We Needed: The Best New Apps for Ultrarunners


By Katrin Silva

The App Store is a crowded place, with tons of games, calculators and productivity enhancers. We can fritter away hours and hours trying to find new ways to save a few minutes of time. Yet, I feel the digital marketplace neglects the niche market of ultra runners. Our needs are different from those of the general population, so it’s no wonder we don’t yet have the tools we didn’t know we needed. Here are some coming attractions for those of us who don’t feel complete without cell phones:

1. Mushy Brain – The Finish Time Calculator for Ultra Runners

Ever made finish time predictions that were a little too optimistic? Are your fingers too swollen to use the crude, basic calculator on your phone? Is your brain unable to perform basic mathematical equations after mile 35? We’ve got the answer!

My low-tech 2015 Western States pace chart, lovingly prepared by my husband David, who would never insist on the Ultrasignup interlock device.

Trained to recognize your deteriorating linguistic patterns over the course of an ultra, this app lets you use your voice to calculate and re-calculate when you’ll be done. Its superior algorithms consider a variety of data points for accuracy instead of just the number of miles to the finish: air temperature, altitude, regularity (or irregularity) of footfalls, number and impact severity of random gravity checks, nausea level and/or barfing frequency, and the deteriorating linguistic patterns mentioned earlier. The premium version includes additional calculators for when you will reach the next aid station, when the runner behind you will pass you unless you speed up, and even an alarm for when to wake up from your trailside nap if you still want to make the final cutoff. Hours of entertainment will make the miles fly by.

Leadville 2016, mile 92. My calculations for reaching the finish line needed some adjustment.

2. Rattle – The App That Will Make You Move Again During an Ultra, Guaranteed.

Are you tired? Are your feet dragging? Do you still have 50-plus miles to go? Release your own safe, legal PED in the form of an adrenaline jolt mid-race.

This app is linked to your GPS watch. Once your pace slows to an unacceptable level (which you set before race day, based on your goal finish time), you hear an unmistakeable, bone-chilling rattling sound. Guaranteed to at least double your ground speed for the next five miles, or your money back.

San Diego 100, 2016. I did hear a rattlesnake at mile 43, which gave me a burst of speed in spite of the 105 degree heat.

Disclaimer I: Use sparingly. Habituation will progressively blunt the effect. In-app purchases therefore include other scary animal sounds, or just a rustle coming from the bushes, which works well for those with lively imaginations, especially in the dark.

Disclaimer II: Manufacturer will not be legally or morally responsible for injured (or deceased) runners who confuse the sound of the Rattle App with an actual rattlesnake and get bitten as a result.

3. Potty Map – You Can Go There!

An idea whose time is overdue. The world is not your oyster, it’s your restroom. Detailed, large-scale interactive map shows your current distance to rivers and residential dwellings, plus bushy trees, rocks and other visual barriers close to your route.

Never trust a sock in the woods.

The paid premium version adds vegetation density, wind direction, warning flags for cacti, briars, thorny vines and poison ivy, plus the location of plants with large, soft leaves for emergency situations, e.g. when you find yourself without TP or an extra sock. Take care of your most pressing needs with confidence.

4. Ear Worm Be Gone! – The Tune Remover

Song stuck in your head at 2 a.m. and driving you crazier than you already are? You’re too tired to use willpower effectively at that point. Besides, scientific studies confirm that the only reliable, safe way to get rid of an ear worm is to replace it with another. This means you have a say in what you want to hear over and over. Feel empowered! Even better if the new ear worm makes you run faster, just because you want to get away from it. This app gives you many delightful options, ranging from “YMCA” by The Village People to “Gangnam Style.”

Pay $1.99 extra for even more imaginative choices, including commercial jingles featuring geckos or used-car salespeople.

5. Stop RUI – Spousal Control for Ultrasignup

Developed in collaboration with the SOAR* coalition. If you’ve ever been guilty of RUI (registering under the influence), your partner will appreciate this handy and simple interlock device. Breath alcohol levels above the legal limit will block the registration link on Ultrasignup, or block the Ultrasignup site from opening altogether. Add-ons include interlock devices for and other websites that could be classified as gateway drugs to ultra running. This app might save your romantic relationship. Residents of Colorado and California should note that a version sensitive to cannabis consumption is in the testing phase.

Don’t get on Ultrasignup when you’re seeing double.

*Significant Others Against RUI

Run happy out there, with or without technology!



  1. Rick Riedel on

    What We Really Need. There is a fortune to be made for the person who develops the drone that uses collision-prevention technology to follow you along during a race, just close enough to grab water, flashlights and other gear without having to carry anything.

    • Yes!!! That sounds wonderful. A drone could also light the way during the night, eliminating the need for head lamps altogether.
      Would the drone-supported runners be in a separate category, I wonder?