Ayr on the run of a lifetime

Jason Ayr, of Westfield, left, stands alongside his Western Mass Distance Project teammates after finishing the Chicago Marathon in 61st place. (Submitted photo)

WESTFIELD – Westfield native Jason Ayr is on the run, and nobody in sight appears to be able to catch him.
Ayr, 25, a former Westfield High School runner, recently completed the Chicago Marathon in 61st place (2:27:58) among some 45,000 runners.
Tsegaye Kebede, 25, of Ethiopia won the 26.2 mile race in 2:04.38. The top 10 was dominated by Ethiopians, who captured five spots, and Kenyan-born athletes, who claimed four positions.
“I’m happy with how I ran,” said Ayr. “Things were going really well until the last three miles when I faded off the pace.”
Ayr kept a pace of about 5 minutes, 33 seconds through the races first 23 miles before slowing to 5:45, 6:00, and 6:30 from miles 24-26.
“I hit a wall pretty hard at the end,” he said.
To train for the marathon, Ayr logged 100 miles a week in the months leading up to the race, and occasionally met up with his race team, Western Mass Distance Project, for longer progression runs.
On race day in Chicago, Ayr said he gulped down four energy shots for a boost and drank water every two miles along the course to remain hydrated.
“During my training cycle, my mileage was not as high at I would have liked,” he said, noting that he would like to increase his weekly mileage totals closer to 120 per week and work in some longer progression runs. “I need to remain in that ‘red zone’ for a little longer.”
That “red zone” Ayr is talking about refers to the last leg of a long race where a runner has to reach deep down to push him or herself across the finish line.
“You have to get your body used to working while tired,” he said. “On race day, you get that extra distance by adrenaline, but if you touch upon it too much, you’ll flatten yourself out.”
Ayr next plans on running the USATF New England championships with his Western Mass Distance Project teammates this Sunday at Stanley Park. They will compete in the Open Men’s race for ages 39-and-under, beginning at 12:30 p.m. A Masters Race will begin at 11 a.m., followed by the women’s competition at 11:50.
“A win there would be a bigger accomplishment than Chicago,” Ayr said.
From there, Ayr and the Western Mass Distance Project plans on traveling to Lexington, Kentucky for the Club Nationals on Dec. 8. He also is expected to compete in the inaugural Run Westfield St. Paddy’s Day Race in 2013.
But there is one ultimate goal in the not-so-distant future.
“We want to be regionally and nationally competitive,” said Ayr, noting his team’s goal of competing in the racing trials leading up to the 2016 Olympics.
Notes: The Western Mass. Distance Project is made up of University of Massachusetts graduates, and includes Andy and John Messer, both of Westfield. …Ayr began his first day as a geometry teacher at Commerce High School in Springfield.

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