Meet the Gosport woman who is changing running equality one race at a time

Tina Chantrey (48) from Lee-on-the-Solent, found an escape in running. Picture: Sarah Standing (221119-2758)Tina Chantrey (48) from Lee-on-the-Solent, found an escape in running. Picture: Sarah Standing (221119-2758)
Tina Chantrey (48) from Lee-on-the-Solent, found an escape in running. Picture: Sarah Standing (221119-2758) | JPIMedia Resell
Whenever life gets tough for Tina Chantrey, she will lace up her running shoes and jog for miles.

The running superwoman, from Lee-on-the-Solent, has completed marathon after marathon and vows that running put her life back on track when she felt it was falling apart.

And now you can’t slow her down when it comes to fighting for equality in the sport.

‘I have always been a runner,’ says the 48-year-old.

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Tina with her three daughters.Tina with her three daughters.
Tina with her three daughters. | Other 3rd Party

‘My dad was a marathon runner so there’s always been running in the family.

‘When I was younger, I was a cross-country runner and represented the county.’

Tina explains that after she had her daughters life became extremely overwhelming.

‘I have three daughters – Lola who’s 19, Amelie, 16, and 13-year-old Sienna.

Tina Chantrey with her Friday morning running group.Tina Chantrey with her Friday morning running group.
Tina Chantrey with her Friday morning running group. | Other 3rd Party

‘Having three children in six years was intense.

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‘I lost my way as a person and running would allow me to reconnect with myself.’

On top of her family life, Tina’s fragmented relationship with her father became a source of negativity.

She explains: ‘My dad moved to South Africa and I lost contact with him.

Tina with her Friday morning running group. Picture: Sarah Standing (221119-1969)Tina with her Friday morning running group. Picture: Sarah Standing (221119-1969)
Tina with her Friday morning running group. Picture: Sarah Standing (221119-1969) | JPIMedia Resell

‘After I had my first daughter, I tried to reconnect with him after 10 years of not speaking.

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‘I had kept running but it wasn’t the same without him in my life.’

Tina, who is the fitness editor for Women’s Running magazine, explains that life got really tough for her and she had given up working.

She says: ‘I joined my local running group, Stubbington Green Runners, 10 years ago and I loved it.

‘I had all this speed which I thought I had lost.

‘I was finding freedom again and it was the nail in the coffin for my marriage.

‘I felt stronger and it made me realise I wasn’t happy.

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‘Running has been a constant thread in my life since I was a little girl and it was empowering to get back into it. It awakened the old me.’

With her three young daughters depending on her, Tina’s divorce almost ‘destroyed’ her.

‘It was a really tough divorce, I couldn’t cope with it,’ admits Tina.

‘My ex-husband moved back to Australia so I have brought my girls up on my own.

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‘I was fighting for them and dealing with foreign services made it more difficult.

‘The only thing that held me together was running.

‘I was anxious and low but running was therapeutic and a release for me.

‘If I hadn’t done it, I would have fallen apart.

‘My mental healt h was spiralling out of control and running put me back on track.’

And one day while Tina was waiting for her daughters in the playground, she realised that there were many women like her who enjoyed running but just didn’t have the time to dedicate to it.

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‘A lot of running groups take place in the evenings, but when you have a family it’s hard to get involved with them,’ says Tina.

‘I realised in the playground there were a lot of single parents or military mums who were interested in running but didn’t have the time.

‘I set up my Friday morning running group for a quality session. I take a holistic and mindful approach to running so it’s more personal.’

Today, Tina still runs that session and plans to start another. She says she’s made great friends with her fellow runners.

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‘Those girls have helped me through so much – they’re my best friends.’

Alongside her work and passion for running, Tina is also a published author with her 2017 book The Divorce Survival Guide.

‘I wrote down on paper how I was feeling about the divorce . Each chapter gives you exercise to help,’ explains Tina.

‘The response was great.

‘It was a strange experience – I kept on talking about a really tough time time in my life.’

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Tina has completed relays, marathons and ultra-marathons but it was just earlier this year that she began to challenge the ‘archaic’ unequal rules at some events.

In January 2019, Tina travelled to London to take part in the Southern Cross Country Championships, run by the South of England Athletics Association (SEAA).

‘Women are not allowed to run the same distance as men – it’s very traditional,’ she explains.

‘But it’s nearly 2020, it should be equal.’

At this race, women are only allowed to run eight kilometres whereas the men can run nearly double in their 15k race.

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Tina says: ‘I did my race and t hen joined the men. I didn’t complete it but I ran about 12 miles.

‘It was quite scary actually, I just did it on my own and ran alongside the men.

‘A marshal shouted at me telling me to get off the course.

‘When I crossed the line, I got shouted at again saying I could have injured the men running.

‘I just thought come on, let running be equal.’

Eight months later in September, Tina challenged the inequality at the SEAA’s Southern Road Relays event.

‘Women are allowed to run 4.8k and men 6.1k.

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‘It’s so archaic. I was wearing my little protest sign which read “ run equal ’.

‘I was in a team of four, I did my three laps and then did an extra one to prove we can run the same.

‘The next Southern race is next year and I hope more women will join me in protest.

‘Some people may think it’s not important but it’s important to the sport.

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‘I’m a mum of three girls and it feels so fundamentally wrong that girls have to run less than boys.

‘I feel like I have to change that.

‘The real heart of this debate is younger girls and how they perceive themselves and their value in the wonderful sport of running.

‘We have national campaigns such as This Girl Can and yet certain aspects of our sport then say, sorry but actually, This Girl Can’t.’

But Tina admits her daughters think she’s gone mad.

She says: ‘My daughters think I’m crazy. I sometimes come home covered in mud and soaking wet and they think I am mad.

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‘But they’re very supportive, they just know I have got to do it.

‘I’m on a running streak this year. I found out my long-term partner was cheating on me last year and I have run every day since then.’

Tina – who also works as an assistant running and athletics coach, reflexologist and Reiki coach – is now working on her new book about reflexology which will be published in April 2020.

But she still manages to find time for her favourite hobby and believes she wouldn’t be the person she is today if she couldn’t run.

She laughs and says: ‘I would probably be rocking in a corner somewhere.

‘Running has just been so vital to my mental health, it has kept me on the straight and narrow.’