Data dump: Boston Marathon course GPX & vertical profile; plus pacing, heart rate & workout details

My Boston Marathon coverage finishes with a data dump. It’s mostly for my purposes, so I can quickly access and compare the information in the future; but there are a few resources that will be useful for any Boston participant.

Boston Marathon course GPX file

During the race I wore a Suunto Ambit GPS sport watch. It recorded a distance of 26.38 miles, which probably includes some wider corners than the official course.

Download the GPX file

Vertical profile

Multiple sources agree that the starting line is at 442 feet above sea level and the finish at 17 feet above sea level. But I found multiple listings of vertical change:

  • 783 feet of gain, 1225 feet of loss, 442 net down
  • 544 feet of gain, 922 feet of loss, 378 net down
  • GPSRunning: 693 feet of gain, 1095 feet of loss, 402 net down
  • GPX track from my Suunto Ambit: 600 feet of gain, 1064 feet of loss, 464 net down

If you take the average of these, you get:

  • 655 feet of gain
  • 1077 feet of loss
  • 422 net down
  • In an average mile, you gain 25 feet and lose 41 feet, so 16 feet net down

This is from my Suunto Ambit. It looks like the starting altitude was off by about 60 feet, but the profile should be the same otherwise.

Logistics map

To help orient myself and to help my family plan their spectating, I created the map below. You’re welcome to use it for your own purposes.


I ran a slightly negative split, which is probably rare at Boston on a hot day. My slowest 5K split was through the Newton Hills, and fastest was the final full 5K from the top of Heartbreak Hill into downtown Boston.

Heart rate

The most surprising piece of data was my heart rate, which averaged 165 bpm and which peaked at 177 bpm.

In training I had not seen my HR exceed 175 bpm. And based on tempo workouts and the Daniels’ Running Formula, I thought my maximum sustainable marathon effort would be in the high-150’s. Daniels puts it at 88 percent of max HR for a 2:20 marathoner, or 158 bpm in my case.

I suspect that the heat played a role in my elevated HR. If anyone has insight into this, please chime in.

Telltale workouts

Are you ready to run a 2:32:01 at the Boston Marathon on a warm day? The workouts below, from the final six weeks of training, might give you an indication. Unless otherwise noted, these were done in Boulder, Colo. at 5,300 feet above sea level.

2 x 15 minutes with 5-min rest

  • 5:19 pace for interval 1
  • 5:17 pace for interval 2
  • Flat loop

25-mile long run

  • 16-mile marathon pace effort starting at mile 4
  • 5:49 pace for the MP segment, with 500 vertical feet of climbing

12 miles at marathon pace

  • 5:45 pace at sea level
  • 1,000 vertical feet of climbing

10K tempo

  • 33:23 overall or 5:23 pace
  • Sea level conversion is 32:17
  • Flat loop
Posted in on April 27, 2017


  1. Jacob Kosker on April 28, 2017 at 9:38 am

    I love the metrics. I think I might like the data and science as much as I love running. What is your MHR if you don’t mind me asking? Just wondering what percent of your MHR you were running at. How far out from the race did you perform the indicator workouts?

    • Andrew Skurka on April 28, 2017 at 9:52 am

      The highest I’ve seen my HR in recent years was at Boston, 178. Previously I’d seen it at 175, 174, etc. Although, these were workouts, not all-out race efforts.

      So 165 bpm would suggest 92 percent of MHR. That seems inconsistent with my understanding of sustainable paces for marathon distances. For examples, Daniels says that 2:20 marathoners should be at 89 percent, or 159 in my case.

      Not sure how to explain it. Maybe a HR expert can chime in. It’s pretty interesting.

  2. Dave Scheibel on April 28, 2017 at 11:30 am

    My guess is that you don’t have an accurate max HR estimate right now. I’d be curious what it would get up to during a ramping treadmill Vo2max test, or even an all out fast mile or 5k.

    • Andrew Skurka on April 28, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      That’d be my guess, too. The idea that I’m so fit that I can run at 92 percent MHR for 2.5 hours is preposterous.

      • Stephanie on January 15, 2020 at 8:38 am

        I live in SLC (4200′ elevation) and notice that my HR is certainly amplified at sea level when I am traveling. Pace is faster, as predicted, but often heart rate is higher, all at about the same effort as a run would have been back home. Excited for my first Boston Marathon next year and hoping the elevation training advantage might bring a good race!

  3. Bob Newton on March 30, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Great stuff. This is super helpful for my upcoming boston race. I think I am almost exactly at the same level of fitness. Just ran 16.5 miles at 5:37 pace with 350 feet of gain. Mine was near sea level and I assume yours was at elevation. Thanks for sharing the elevation data and best of luck in your future races.

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