Our new Training Plans for Runners combine deep experience from premier coaches at McMillan Running with our innovative technology and athlete-focused design. The marathon, half marathon, 10k and 5k plans are designed and curated by Greg McMillan, who has been raising the standard for coaching runners of all ability levels.
Greg McMillan is a world-renowned running coach and founder of the “McMillan Training Calculator.” He has a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is a regular contributor to Runner’s World, Running Times and Competitor Magazine. Founded in 2002, McMillan Running employs leading coaches with certifications from USATF, Road Runners of America and the Lydiard Foundation and has helped more than 2,000 runners qualify for and run the Boston marathon.
Before starting a plan we thought you might like to get to know Greg and learn more about his background, approach and what inspires him to coach.
How long have you been a runner and what is one of your favorite personal moments?
I have been a runner for 30 years. I mostly started getting serious about it in high school. Winning the state championship in the mile still remains my favorite moment. It was the first big race I won and that’s something you can never forget. It also really started me on the path to lifelong running and influenced my field of study in college and obviously, my career as a running coach.
What inspired you to become a coach?
Becoming a coach was a happy accident for me. I studied exercise science as an undergrad because I wanted to improve my own performance — I wanted to know the whys and hows to be my best. Of course, if you study exercise science and hang around other runners, they start asking you questions. Soon, they ask for some workout ideas. Next, you’re building a training plan and soon enough, they are calling you coach. I think coaching came natural for me because my mom was a 9th grade science teacher and I inherited her drive to help others.
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
There are a few key principles that inform McMillan training; no matter if it is for a new runner, age grouper or Olympian.
1. Training Readiness
2. Optimized and Evolving Training Load
3. Gradual Adaptation & Planned Progression
4. Variety for Maximum Fitness boost
5. Race Ready Specificity
What is one of your favorite coaching moments?
Back in 2008, Andrew Lemoncello, an athlete I coach, had been trying all summer to qualify for the Olympic Games in Beijing. He’d been painfully close in several races and it came down to one last chance at a track meet in Paris. I’ll never forget waiting and waiting by the phone to hear from him after his race. Finally, the phone rang. It was Lemon (which is what everyone calls him). I could barely hear him above the roar of the adjacent stadium but he just kept saying, “I did it! I did it!” To this day, I still get emotional because as I told him, being an Olympian is an honor that you have for the rest of your life. It is the pinnacle of our sport and he would forever be an Olympian.
It’s now 7 years later and we’re still working together as we train for the Olympics in Rio. I’m still directing his training and he has since become a McMillan coach, working with me on our joint mission of helping other runners also achieve big goals.
What is one of your favorite memories as a coach? Can you give an example of an athlete that you coached that truly inspired you?
The first charity marathon group I coached was such an inspiration. Honestly, I really felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew how to get athletes ready for the marathon but as with many charity marathon groups, most of the participants had no athletic background and were not runners. It really challenged me to use what I learned from exercise science to prescribe the best preparation given the limited time and lack of running experience. I also got so close to the runners because I knew I had to be very observant and modify the planned training base on how they were feeling. I desperately wanted them to stay injury free. I want this experience to not just get them to the marathon finish line but to also get them to be lifelong runners.
Throughout the training, I was continually inspired by their hard work. They had no running experience yet they were out there literally changing their lives each and every week. And I knew it wasn’t coming easy. Some were not natural runners but they showed more commitment than some of the professional runners I’ve coached. It was incredible. And on race day, there was never any doubt. They were going to get to that finish line and I couldn’t have been more proud watching each achieve the goal that seemed so impossible just a few weeks prior.
How did you develop your famous calculator?
I have always coached the full spectrum of runners. I’ve been lucky in that regard and I think it makes me a better coach. Early on, however, I struggled to know exactly how to prescribe training for runners who were much faster than I and much slower. I had no sense of whether the pacing was appropriate because the speeds were so different. I tried all the available methods for prescribing paces but none seemed to be all I wanted and needed. So, I went to work creating my own. In graduate school, my thesis focused on the connection between physiology and predicting optimal training paces and performance prediction because I was really seeing the connection between exercise science and the real world training advice from the world’s greatest coaches and athletes. The calculator grew from this research and I put it on the web so others could use it too. I never dreamed nearly 15 million runners would have used it but am so glad that they find value in knowing their optimal training paces and predicted race times.
How many coaches do you have on staff and do you have specific criteria for them?
We currently have 10 coaches working with McMillan Running athletes. I am biased but I think it’s the best coaching staff on the planet. We have an Olympian, a World Champion, several National Champions and Boston qualifiers. They are all accomplished runners and just as importantly, they are all accomplished coaches. They are students of the sport. We also have an internal coaching education program and coaching certifications from USA Track and Field, Road Runners Clubs of America, the Lydiard Foundation and the IAAF — our sport’s governing body. As I like to say,
We are coaches who run and runners who coach.
All McMillan coaches exhibit three key traits. First, they are caring. Any good teacher or coach takes on the goals of their student/athlete and invests heavily in helping that runner succeed. Second, they are open minded. Running is not one size fits all and our coaching philosophy revolves around understanding the unique traits of each runner. So, we must observe and listen closely to the athlete to design the best training for that particular athlete. Lastly, they are committed. The same traits that help them run so well also helps them coach so well. They are tenacious in pursuit of their athlete’s goals. They are “all in” at helping the athlete train smart, stay healthy and reach their goals.