Name: Jessica Fragola
Hometown: New Rochelle, NY
High School: New Rochelle High School
Occupation: Veterinarian (Feel free to ask about your pets :)! )
Personal Bests: 5k: 16:59 (2016); 10k: 35:46 (2016); 10 Mile: 58:12 (2016), Half Marathon: 1:20:08 (2016); Marathon: 2:53.18 (2015)
Running Goals: See how fast I can get before I start aging too much; Win Races!
Interviewed by: Kevin Brandon (03/28/16)
Jessica, welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you end up in Philadelphia and how did you come to join PRTC?
I moved (back) to Philadelphia partially because my husband Craig worked here. But really because we love this city (I’m a reformed New Yorker) and wanted to make it our permanent home. I Facebook and Google stalked PRTC for a while before I got the guts to ask if I was fast enough to run with Philadelphia’s Fastest Running Club. I do, admittedly, have an occasional flirtation with the Fishtown Beer Runners.
Compared to other runners in the club, you took the sport up a bit late. Tell us about your progression from non-runner to race lover. What drew you to the scene and what keeps you going?
I started running about 3 years ago, at 31 or so. Like many, I started running in an effort to stay fit. In October 2013, I signed up for a 5k and decided to “train” by sprinting as far as I could every day starting about 2 weeks before the race. I ran a very unimpressive 22 minutes and something, but it was worth second place, so it whet my appetite for more.
I’m old-ish for a new runner – and I worry about the day when I get my last PR – but I love running for its own sake. I highly recommend Haruki Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about Running,” the closest thing I can think of to a runner’s gospel. I hope I’m 85 and decrepit and still enjoying the feel of the sunshine and breeze in my face as my arthritic legs propel me forward.
You recently won the Adrenaline 5k (and took home a nice cash prize!). Tell us about that experience. At what point in the race did a win seem possible?
I don’t think I’ve ever been at a start line quite like that race! Hundreds of really fast looking people thronging the start line and taking off at a breathtaking pace. Adrenaline was the right word for the start. I might have had more adrenaline at the end if I knew Margaret was just a few seconds behind me!
As a follow-up, I know you have a few other wins to your name. Is there a particular race success that you feel proud of?
Races are strange – I prefer big races where a lot of people beat me but give me someone to chase. I think the happiest I ever was at a race was when I finally broke 20 minutes for the 5k (after a year of thinking that sprinting intervals at goal 5k pace was the right way to train) in the context of a 10k race.
Aside from cash, what is your ideal race prize?
I tried to win the Chick-Fil-A 5k race to get free Chick-fil-a for a year and I lost. I think this is my biggest running regret.
You’ve competed in races as diverse as the 5k and marathon. Going forward, do you hope to focus on a particular event? What running goals do you have for the future?
I really just want to see what my limits are, within the context of being full-time employed. I’m a little superstitious and don’t want to name time goals or anything like that. I thought I was more of a slow twitch marathon type but then I ran a big 5k PR of 16:59 recently so I’m not sure. I want to continue to run a variety of races and see what happens.
You graduated from Harvard. What’s your preference: University City or Cambridge? Philadelphia or Boston?
Philadelphia hands down. It took me a few years to really appreciate the irony of its moniker “city of brotherly love” but I embrace it wholeheartedly now.
I’ve met many local runners involved in the field of healthcare. So far, you’re the only veterinarian. Was this a childhood dream? What’s the best part of being a vet? The worst?
I was amazed to find that most of the PRTC women are in the medical field, but I think it’s because medicine and running tend to attract the same sort of (slightly obsessive) personalities. The best part of being a veterinarian is the day to day excitement. OK, that’s a lie – the best part is getting to play with kittens. The worst part is when you can’t save your patients.
Some people enjoy training their dogs as running partners. Is this something you approve of? If so, what breed would you most recommend?
This is my favorite question. The answer is the Philadelphia Terrier (also known as the pit bull). Medium sized mutts are also generally a good choice. My bias for shelter dogs aside, you want to avoid brachycephalic (short-nosed) dogs because they cannot breathe very well with exertion. I’d also avoid very thick haired dogs due to overheating. As far as purebreds with the stamina – Vizslas, Weimaraners, Jack Russell Terriers, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds are great energetic dogs. But if you are planning on getting one in a city apartment you better be prepared to run with them at least 5 miles a day!
I know you, along with your husband Craig, have traveled to some interesting places around the world. As a runner, is there a trip you especially enjoyed?
The best running tourism I’ve ever done was to run around the entire circumference of the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia at sunrise. And you can get a post-run hour-long massage for under $10.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with PRTC?
I am taking a brief (1 year) vacation to Madison, Wisconsin for work. I’ll be back for long runs on weekends at least once a month and am not giving up my status as a Philadelphian!