Q&A: Harry Potter actress Evanna Lynch

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Channelling her breakout character, Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter film series, actress Evanna Lynch makes it through difficult runs using a dash of creative whimsy.

She daydreams while logging miles, building detailed fantasy scenes in her mind as she ascends hills or has an especially tough workout. Her alter ego, she says, is a warrior with "an awesome ponytail." Often, she imagines she is being chased by some imaginary foe.

Lynch is still reluctant to call herself a real runner, viewing the neon-clad, gel-slurping people she passes while running near her Southern California home as part of some odd club. But it’s going to be hard for her to avoid initiation into the running herd after Sunday 20th March, when she will join 20,000 other runners at the New York City Half Marathon - her debut at the distance representing the charity World Animal Protection.

Runner’s World caught up with Lynch before the race to talk about her training. But just like her mind during a long run, the conversation meandered, from what it felt like the first time she foam-rolled, to the training advice she received from fans, to the personality of her warrior alter ego.

This being your first ever half marathon, how is training going?

It’s going good actually. I have never run seriously before. The maximum that I used to run was five miles or something around there. In 2014 I started to push myself but it came to a point where I got a knee injury. Now I have been doing a lot of physio and a lot of yoga. I have totally changed the way I train. I foam-roll now. I don’t know why I never did that before. 

What made you want to train for a half marathon in the first place?

I love running and I don’t have to force myself to do it. I find it meditative and just relaxing. I don’t like my exercise to be punishing. Running makes you feel a good kind of pain, like you’ve stretched yourself. I used to hate it when I was younger. I thought you had to hate exercise and I had a bad relationship with it. Now I make sure it’s something that I want to do. I take it gently. I get the feeling like, ‘Yes, I can go exercise.’ By finding an exercise to love, it doesn’t feel like pain or sacrifice. Well there is pain, but your mind helps you ignore it or not focus on that. I want my exercise to feel like my friend.

Before you started training for your first half marathon, what was your relationship with running?

I was running maybe three to four miles twice a week. In my head, a half marathon seemed really huge. And you hear people talking about running and they are really hard-core about it. I went to this running store recently and this guy who was serving me was like, “My last long run was good but at mile 18 I really needed salt.” I was like, ‘Salt?’ I have heard all these weird tips and tricks and stuff. The guy told me he started licking his own hands to get the salt. When I hear things like that I think, ‘Holy sh--, I am not that technical.’ I mean, I only just got a training plan online.

In February you asked your Facebook fans for running advice. What did they say?

I was so nervous that I wouldn’t be able to make the full 13 miles so I reached out on my page. One thing people have been saying is to keep a steady pace. When I did those shorter runs before, I would push myself to try and get a new record. Now I am very consistent and don’t need to stop.

Even though you’re training for your own half marathon, it seems like you think runners are somewhat strange. Why?

[Laughs] Yeah they are a bit crazy. There have definitely been a few times where I see runners and think, ‘I do not understand you at all.’ When I see people running in the heat wearing a jumper I think you are an alien, you are a mutant. That, and when people run in the pouring, pouring rain. I do also admire them. For example, when I see a 60-year-old man with like, eight-pack abs. They must want to feel like a beast when they go outdoors.

Have you found yourself starting to do weird runner things now that you’re training for a half?

I started foam-rolling. When my trainer told me about foam-rolling, and that it helps release lactic acid, I thought, ‘This isn’t a real thing.’ The first time I tried it I sounded like an elephant seal being bludgeoned to death. It was so painful. I didn’t think I could keep it up, but the next day I felt so much better. 

You mentioned that your mind wanders during runs, so what do you think about?

I put a narrative to my run. I go into this new world. I like to imagine I am running away from something. It’s like playing some sort of warrior. For running you have to enter this beast mode and this psyche. I am naturally more bookish, but being on the run I need that alter ego.

So who is your alter running ego?

I think she is way more positive than me. She has like, an awesome ponytail. I am more of a free spirit and she is more disciplined and determined. My natural way is to doubt myself, and she never doubts herself. Being my alter ego, I congratulate myself at every single mile. I give myself a fist bump.