Track Announcer Jessica Paquette Overcomes Injury, Ready for Boston Marathon

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Jessica Paquette calls Thoroughbred races at Parx Racing and will run in this year’s Boston Marathon in her hometown. (Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO)

Overcoming obstacles is nothing new to Jessica Paquette. The only full-time, year-round female track announcer in the United States, Paquette has her sights set on running in the Boston Marathon April 17.

Back in 2020, when the marathon was held in the fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Paquette was supposed to run in the world-class event. But a horseback riding accident eight days before the race left her with a broken back.

“It was relatively uncertain right after my accident whether I’d be able to get back to full physical capabilities, but I was determined that I would somehow make it back. So a year after the accident, I ran the Chicago Marathon and then I was fortunate enough to get a charity ticket, a charity bib so I can run the Boston Marathon this year.”

She entered last year’s Chicago Marathon without knowing if she would be capable of running.

“I was in a back brace for about four months after (the accident) and then under strict instructions to really ease back slowly into physical activity, which I did not listen to at all,” Paquette said. “I’m pretty sure the day my back brace was off, I was like, ‘OK, see ya.’ And then felt like I’d never run a day in my life.

“After about a quarter mile, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m so out of shape.’ But you know, little by little, the fitness and the conditioning came back and you learn to live with the level of discomfort.”

Now a little more than a month away from achieving her initial goal of running in her hometown of Boston, Paquette is working on raising awareness—and funds—for the Boston Public Library.

A fan of books, all Paquette could do during her recovery was read. They were a “wonderful method of escape” for her. Now, she is turning the page and crafting a new chapter.

Meanwhile, Paquette is still getting acclimated to her role at Parx Racing, which she began in December.

She was more used to calling Quarter Horse races, which is a substantial change. But Paquette knew being a trailblazer wouldn’t be easy.

“It’s been hard. The first one through the wall gets all the arrows and I was prepared for it to be hard. I was prepared for there to be some blowback. I was not prepared for the level of regular vitriol I get on a daily basis. But, you know, I think people can hear that I’m getting better each race and each week.”

It hasn’t been a social media exclusive; Paquette has heard the criticism from horseplayers in the stands as well as people throughout the industry. 

“I appreciate the team here at Parx, who has really had my back and has continued to support me as I grow into this role,” she said. “I’m excited to become the first woman, I think, ever to call a Grade 1 (Pennsylvania Derby) this fall, which means a lot to me.”

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