‘How Harry Potter helped me reach my marathon goal’

Image: Nicoletta Richardson

Whether it's mind games or a fine-tuned playlist, keeping up the motivation on long training runs can be tough. We spoke to one runner to find out how listening to Harry Potter transformed her marathon training: 

When I was in school, I remember every kid around me buzzing with excitement about the Harry Potter books. Gryffindor this, Malfoy that, Hagrid who? Why were people so obsessed? Although I was curious, I wasn’t curious enough to pick up the book and read it myself (I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t much of a reader growing up).

Sure, when the movies came out, I went to see all of them. And yes, I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios, and went on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London while studying abroad. But I was never what you'd considered a ”die heart” Harry Potter fan because I didn’t read the books. And I was okay with that—although I did always wonder what I was missing out on.

Related: 14 of the best podcasts to run to, according to Runner's World readers 

Fast-forward to this past July when I found out I got into the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon. It was emotional, exhilarating, and frightening all at once to commit the time and money to train for a 26.2-mile run—but I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'd already ran three half-marathons at that point, but I couldn’t help wonder how in the world I was going to double that over the next four months. I knew I needed something more than music to keep my training going (a.k.a. not get bored out of my mind) so I did what any other helpless soul would do - asked fellow runners for advice.

Once they got over the fact that I had never read Harry Potter before, someone suggested downloading the Harry Potter audio books narrated by Jim Dale [Stephen Fry narrates the Harry Potter series in the UK]. At first, I was a bit hesitant, wondering how a British man reading a book word-for-word would keep my legs moving. But since I hadn't found time to sit down and read a good novel in what seemed like forever, I figured I might as well give it a shot.

Image: Nicoletta Richardson

The first day I listened to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was during the longest run I'd ever completed during training—a 12-miler. I pressed play and a high-pitched melody started, followed by the calming voice of Jim Dale. The scene opened with Vernon Dursley, Harry’s uncle, encountering strange happenings during his morning routine. Immediately, I thought, “This didn’t happen in the movie…” And in just a few moments the unthinkable happened: I was hooked.

Two hours of my life had never flown by so fast—let alone, while running. I completely zoned out as I zoomed loops in Central Park, listening to the many voices of my English friend and a storyline that felt entirely different from the movie. Sure, most of the time I was imagining Daniel Radcliff as Harry Potter and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, because that’s how they were first introduced to me. But the new characters and the plot twists I never knew existed kept me on my toes, quite literally. 

And so, my Sundays consisted of tacking on two more miles every other run and, more importantly, getting to find out what’s happening next in the magical world of Harry Potter. 14 miles, 16 miles, 18 miles, and finally 20—my peak before tapering for the marathon. It’s important to note that this was my very first marathon, and I decided in advance that I wasn’t going to race it for the time, so I didn't track my pace rigorously throughout my audio book runs.

Of course, there were days that I craved a bit more than just a distraction—I needed a melodic tempo to keep me going—which is where spontaneous music came into play. But for almost all of my long runs during training, Harry Potter and his friends helped me fly across the park and hit my mileage goal—just like catching up to the golden snitch and winning the Quidditch game. Moral of the story: It’s amazing what your body can do when you’re not over-thinking your every move.

If you've tried the audiobooks and are looking for something more, the Hogwarts Running Club runs virtual races and gives you the chance to win themed medals from the wizarding world. 

A version of this article originally appeared on Women's Health US