Tools We Did Not Know We Needed: The Best New App Ideas for Ultra Runners



The AppStore is a crowded place, with tons of games, calculators, and productivity enhancers. It is now possible to 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 rich 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. Beyond Strava, I can think of some useful apps for those of us who don’t feel complete without their cell phones:

A calculated effort

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 during your run to use the crude, basic calculator on your phone? Is your brain unable to perform basic mathematical equations after mile 65? We’ve got the answer!

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

Trained to recognize your deteriorating linguistic patterns, including grunting sounds, 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.

Matt Gunn’s amazing eco-commodes trailer at an Ultra Adventures race. Unfortunately, they are not available in the middle of the woods.

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

Which is worse? This . . .

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.

. . . or this?

Pay $1 extra for even more imaginative choices, including commercial jingles for used cars and excerpts from Donald Trump’s inaugural address.

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) as described here:
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 marriage. 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

Which of these would you use? What did I forget? Please let me know!

It’s a good time to be alive and running, with or without these apps –

See you out there,


4 thoughts on “Tools We Did Not Know We Needed: The Best New App Ideas for Ultra Runners

  1. Randi Bromka Young

    Excellent list. I happened to think of another useful app just today.

    WHAMO measures in g-forces impact levels of trail falls; records location & length of time on the ground; photo (of scrapes and open wounds) immediately shared on all social media venues. Pro version includes notification of emergency contact if one has not moved for half-an-hour after a crash.


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