Study: Boston is actually the slowest Marathon Major course
Boston has a mixed reputation when it comes to its course. It’s far from f lat, as anyone who has crested Heartbreak Hill can attest. Heartbreak is the fourth and final hill in a series of challenging inclines that come just before the 20-mile (32.2k) mark of the race. Yet overall, Boston is a net downhill course, dropping 136 m over the course of the full 42.2k distance. Because of this and its point-topoint nature, Boston is not eligible for world records.
In 2011, Geoffrey Mutai ran the fastest-ever marathon in Boston in 2:03:02 (Dennis Kimetto has since run faster, clocking a 2:02:57 in Berlin in 2014). At the time, some, including Boston officials, believed it should be considered a legitimate record and lobbied to have it listed as a world record. Their efforts ultimately failed. This nevertheless helped to support the notion that Boston could be a fast course if conditions were right.
But a new study published in the journal PLOS One casts doubt on that claim. The study looked at the top 10 male and female finish times from 2005 to 2014 from the original five World Marathon Majors (Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York) and compared the results.
Findings showed that London had the fastest times, followed closely by Berlin. Boston, on the other hand, featured the slowest average times, just slightly slower than New York. Criticism of the study rightly points out that this analysis looks only at the very fastest runners who may be motivated to run based on prize money and appearance fees. It ignores the average finisher.