The Real Boston Marathon Elevation Chart

I finally got around to downloading my Boston Marathon data from my Garmin 301.  I thought the GPS based data was extremely interesting, especially when compared to the official course elevation map.  Following is the official elevation map:


Following is the map from my GPS post race:


Notice all the hills that get smoothed out in the official map, especially between miles 15 and 23.

  • Smooth is a function of data points.

  • Juan

    Why didn’t you stop by the house?

    -Juan Quijano ’09

  • My last marathon i took part was the berlin (germany) one because a friend of mine lives there. I wasn’t realy satisfied with my time (3:56). I am looking forward to the boston marathon which i’ll try to run next year.


  • I wouldn’t necessarily believe the data from the GPS unit. I have a Forerunner 301 too and the elevation data shows changes in many instances that are not possible where I live (it’s very flat here). I suspect the problem is when it switches satellites as I notice the elevations to be most off if the signal is blocked from one or more directions.

  • Actually, I use MotionBased with my Garmin. Motionbased ( has an elevation smoothing algorithm that you can turn one that dramatically smooths out the problems you described. My first import had about 4x the elevation change, so I’m pretty confident this is accurate.

  • Brad, my Polar watch showed a very similar graph. I could tell shortly after I started the race that they lied! Even the little hills at the beginning were more than I had expected. The Newton hills were killers! Congrats on getting through it! Despite the hills, I had an awesome experience and it sounds like you did as well.

    Larry Nelson pointed me to your post about the negative email you received. I’m reminded of something that Bobby McGee has said to me on several occasions. Bobby was my coach for Boston – I see that he’s your coach as well (isn’t he great?). Bobby said that you don’t run anything longer than a half marathon for health or fitness. You run it for your soul. Each of my marathons has been that type of experience. Personally, I think you get double the soul benefit when you run for a charity. Maybe your reader will think that’s selfish, but as Shirley Chisholm told a friend of mine, you can’t be of service to others unless you first take care of yourself.

    Best of luck on your goal to run 50 marathons.

  • John Virga

    where is the steepest hill?? any idea treadmill translation to the steepest hill?? and also relation to Heartbreak hill (assuming I am correct in thinking that heartbreak is not the steepest…)

  • James

    Hills….LOL I have cracks in the side walk that are taller than those around here. Besides If you want to run a race a complain about the hills, come run Catalina with me next year. On a more serious note, My Garmin has a habit of showing different elevations on the same coarses. I run many of the same week in and week out, there is a surprising number of changes each week. some it has to do with where it pics the data pionts, unless you have it set on data every second. Just my two cents worth.

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for posting!

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