UMass grad Jason Ayr finishes top 30 at 2017 Boston Marathon

  • UMass grad Jason Ayr nears the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street on Monday. He finished 29th in the men’s race. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI


  • UMass graduate Jason Ayr nears the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street on Monday. He finished 29th in the men’s race. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • The finish line of the 2017 Boston Marathon on Monday. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • 2014 Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi approaches the finish line at the 2017 edition of the race. He finished 14th overall in what he said would be his final competitive Boston Marathon. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Published: 4/17/2017 7:54:33 PM

BOSTON — Jason Ayr waited in the staging room in Hopkinton before the start of the 121st Boston Marathon.

It was his first time in the elite field starting chute. The UMass graduate and Westfield native looked to one side and saw 2014 Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi. He turned his head and noticed 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medalist Galen Rupp.

“At first it was nerve-wracking. Once we got in there, everyone was so normal. I’m sitting next to the bronze medalist at the 2016 Olympics and he’s acting the same way I am,” Ayr said. “It makes you realize they’re all human too, it kind of normalizes it for you.”

Once Monday’s race started, those world-class runners showed what makes them abnormal in 80-degree heat on a challenging course.

Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui won the race in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds. Rupp, a three-time Olympian, took second in 2:09:58 and was the top American.

There were 19 Americans in the top 30.

“For me it is so exciting to see Americans competing and running well in Boston,” Rupp said. “It is a real exciting time and is great to see American distance running on the upswing and be competitive in these big races.”

Ayr took 29th in the men’s division. He crossed the line in 2:24:49. Ayr, who runs for the Western Mass Distance project, was the 18th American to finish. It was the best he’d ever done in the race despite challenging conditions.

“From a finishing position standpoint, that was more than I could have asked for. It was an extremely stacked year from the elite angle,” Ayr said. “Effort-wise it was certainly the best race of my life.”

He was three seconds off his personal best, and that was last year on a much easier, faster course in Hartford, Connecticut. Ayr originally hoped to break 2:21:00, but the heat forced him to alter his expectations.

“When I started the race I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. I still think I am in the best shape of my life,” Ayr said. “I had very high expectations from a time perspective. The thing about a marathon is the marathon is not very forgiving.”

He threw out his time expectations around the sixth or seventh mile. The course started to wear on him around Mile 8 or 9, which he said normally doesn’t set in until just over halfway through the race.

“Looking at the heat before the race went off, we kind of knew it was going to be a problem,” Ayr said. “Everyone was dumping bags of ice and water on themselves. That’s when I knew it was going to be a particularly hard day.”

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