Name: Jason Vail
Interviewed by: Kevin Brandon (01/15/17)
Jason, thanks for taking time to speak with us. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you end up in Philadelphia and competing with PRTC?
Hello Kevin and Happy New Year! I’m originally from Philly and I started showing up at group runs with the PRTC guys in about 2010 and was able to make some big improvements after some consistent running with the group. This is back when Ross, Chakir, Steve Gourley and Fran Coyne, to name a few, were regulars. I think the group had been going for quite a while before then and had seen some good runners come through. Everyone was very welcoming and gave me a lot of good advice. Stuff like don’t hammer ever run, but make sure to do some speed work every week with a long run. The basics.
When did you first become a runner? Did a specific event compel you to take on the sport?
I ran a little as part of training for other sports like soccer, but I didn’t run seriously until after I gave up playing in about 2008. I decided to do the Philly distance run as my first race ever. In retrospect, it might have made more sense to try a 5k first. I trained by running 10 miles every other day as fast as I could. The race was painful, but I was hooked knowing I could do so much better.
Once you began running, how did your career develop? Take us through day one to today.
I started running a lot of races after the first half marathon and making small improvements. Once I hooked up with the PRTC folks I was able to run a lot smarter and make bigger strides. Getting under 3 hours and doing Boston for the first time were probably the highlights. Today I’m happy to still be able to run consistently and do a few races throughout the year. I tend to focus on the marathon, but my favorite race is Broad Street.
As a longer-tenured PRTC member, could you share any fun memories from the earlier days of the club?
I would say the long runs are what I remember the most. A good group of people and great conversation. Lots of stories of past running heroics and some epic failures. One memory that sticks out is Steve Gourley giving me a ride home after a sweltering hot summer long run and feeling really bad about sweating all over his upholstery. I couldn’t have even walked home, so I appreciated it. A class guy.
Also, seeing local sportscaster Leslie Gudel post a picture of Paul running the Sea Isle 10 miler with a caption of ‘Forest Gump is winning’ will always stand out.
Can you tell us about a favorite running accomplishment or moment?
I think running Boston for the first time. Some family came up with me and we had a great time. Every runner should do Boston once!
How about a not-so-great moment?
I think one of the low moments must have been doing Grandma’s marathon in 85 degrees. It was carnage and the Minnesotans were dropping like flies on the course. I cramped up lying down next to a dumpster in the first area and someone brought me an ice cream which helped. That being said, I highly recommend Grandma’s. It’s a beautiful course and Lake Superior is a great ice bath after the race.
You reached master status fairly recently. What keeps you going and how has your approach to training/racing changed over the years?
I became a master 5 years ago! I have many years with no serious running, so I should have a lot left in the tank. Just being able to run consistently and at a fairly decent pace is my goal these days. I think cross training will be the key moving forward with some biking and strength work added to the mix. I’d like to try a 100-mile mountain bike race this May. It’s got to be easier than running, right?
Regarding your running future, what are your near and long-term goals?
I’d like to take a shot at sub 17 for the 5k this year and sub 2:50 for a marathon eventually. A long-term goal is to do the Comrades Marathon. It seems like such a cool race with a great history, but racing 56 miles is daunting. I’ve been talking to Breandan and Justin about doing it for a while now. Anyone else interested?
It seems like you enjoy your professional life. What do you do for a living and how did you end up in that line of work?
I’ve been lucky to work at Penn for a while and it’s great for my running schedule. My commute is 10 minutes by bike and I’m near Franklin Field. I work in the Advancement Office running the Analytics department and we focus on fundraising and alumni relations. I fell into this line of work after going to St. John’s College in Annapolis and focusing on Philosophy, so I guess it’s not surprising I ended up doing something else.
Any non-running related hobbies, hidden skills or talents we may enjoy hearing about?
My hobbies consist of binge-watching movies and tv and reading. I like history and anything soccer related. As far as hidden skills and talents go, I did fix my tv over the holidays by removing the main board and baking it in the oven for 10 minutes at 385 degrees. It worked! So call me before you throw your old tv away.