This Girl Can: Tina and Running

As a child I ran a lot (my dad was a marathon runner). I drifted away from the sport in my twenties, and then had three children. After my third daughter was born I decided to join my local running club. I knew I had to do something for me. I was so nervous before going to the first session. I had to force myself to leave the house, but it was so exhilarating! I felt free and found a community of like-minded people.

Not long after, I went through my divorce. It was very prolonged and complicated as my ex-husband moved to New Zealand. I found myself bringing up three girls alone. Anxiety overcame me as I struggled to support and look after them. I was also diagnosed with a congenital kidney disorder known as Cacchi-Ricci disease. My kidneys don’t filter properly due to clusters of tiny cysts, leaving me in constant pain.

As much as I tried, I struggled to keep going during my divorce, let alone keep up running. With no partner to help with childcare, I could only run if I put my children in a field then ran around them. I lost my fitness and stopped going to races. Just getting through each day took all the energy I had.

And yet I was determined to fight back after my diagnosis; I didn’t want my illness to take over my life. 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. It took me a long time to move through the divorce experience and adapt my lifestyle so that I was working with my body, not fighting my condition. It was a slow journey back, but I received constant support from the women in my group.

Watching the women I coach get fitter and stronger, and believe in themselves, kept me going during the dark times. Running really did save my life when I felt I had nothing. Carrying on running, however slowly, while helping others improve, was the best decision I made. 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 to face your future.

You can follow what these amazing women are up to every week on Instagram: @shewhodaresruns.

I have running to thanks for helping me believe in myself again. I’m so happy I didn’t give up and so grateful to the women I run with.