Tina Chantrey is consultant editor of Women’s Running magazine, as well as a coach and author. She tells Run Mummy Run how running helped her get through a tough time in her life.
As a mum of three girls, going through divorce was the hardest experience of my life. If I hadn’t kept running through the lengthy (and very complicated) experience, I literally don’t think I would have been able to cope with the pressure.
Don’t get me wrong though, I didn’t ‘run’ through all of it. I was determined to run, but often ended up walking or jogging. I stopped, turned to swimming, tried running again, was ill, got better, stopped, started again, got injured, had to cross-train and literally years later (about five) I started to be the runner I had been before divorce.
Yes, five whole years when not just life, but running, was rubbish. For some reason, I didn’t lose faith, though. For the first few years post-separation my life was a mess. Anxiety consumed me. I had three girls to look after and support financially, as maintenance wasn’t forthcoming. My ex-husband moved 12,000 miles away. It really was just me.
But my trainers were my oldest friends. I think I was about eight-years-old when I begged my dad, a marathon runner, to take me running. Athletics, and sport, was a big part of my childhood. But having three girls meant there was little time for me and for years this part of my life was neglected. However, after my third daughter, Sienna, was born I knew I had to do something for me, to hold on to my sanity. I joined my local running club.
Running gave me strength, a new focus, time away from mummy duties and a sense of purpose again. I re-connected with the old me. So, when life changed forever with my divorce, and I sunk down into dark places, I always had a reason to focus forward.
At first I would got to a park or field with my girls and run around them, even when freezing February winds buffeted us all. Often, I only had 10 or 15 minutes to exercise, until their lips turned blue and one would run to me, asking to leave (or telling me how naughty another sister had been!). I was also a very bad mum… I would give them each a lollipop and packet of crisps, knowing that it took about 10 minutes to eat both! I always got just enough time, to help me feel better, but gradually, as my divorce progressed, I wanted and needed more.
I qualified as a coach and started up my own running group in the mornings, for other women who also didn’t have childcare in the evenings. That was the beginning of my slow journey back.
I became an England Athletics Mental Health Ambassador, and organise #runandtalk events to encourage people to give the sport a try. I’ve even written a book on how running turned my life around after my divorce, to help other women going through the same experience. It’s called The Divorce Survival Guide and has six easy steps on how to introduce exercise, and running, in to your life, to help you regain enough strength and self-belief, to face your future.
My view is: if I can do this, so can you. I’ve done some awful races in the last few years, as I try to balance being a mum with work and training. Some weeks I manage four runs, others none. But I’ve learnt there’s no right or wrong way to train, and listening to our bodies allows us to keep our running as consistent as possible. This is the biggest lesson I think any of us can learn (as well as not trying to chase miles on Strava!).
Sport is a big part of our family; it’s helped my three girls and I cope with difficult experiences and emotions. At the moment, all three of my girls ‘hate’ running…how can this be?! But two of my girls are dancers and the youngest is a gymnast. Maybe one day, when they’re ready, they’ll give running a try.
I have running to thank for helping me to believe in myself again. I’m so happy I didn’t give up and so grateful to the women I run with. You can follow what these amazing women are up to every week on Instagram @shewhodaresruns
You can buy Tina’s Divorce Survival Guide on Amazon here or find out more about her running at https://whttps://www.tinachantrey.com/ww.tinachantrey.com/