When Chantie Marshall bought a new bike with the help of a workplace loan scheme, she could never have imagined where it would take her.
Within weeks of taking delivery of her racing bike, and having not ridden since her youth, the keen swimmer and runner signed herself up for her first triathlon.
Now, two years on, 47-year-old Chantie is in training for the ITU World Triathlon in Canada where she will be competing for GB Age Group Triathlon Team in the sprint triathlon – a 750m swim in open water, a 20km bike ride and a 5km run.
“I always thought I would quite like to do a triathlon, but not being able to dry my feet and put socks on after swimming really put me off,” she said. “But I really love all three sports individually and I love the training. I like to challenge myself and see how far I can go with it. I’m not very good at doing things just for fun!”
In her very first race at Blenheim in 2018, following weeks of training with Brighton Tri Club, the mother-of-two surprised herself by being the 12th woman to finish in her age group, and the 88th woman overall out of a field of more than 4,000.
With her new found love for sprint triathlons Chantie went from strength to strength as the season progressed, climbing the rankings with each one. With success after success, it wasn’t long before she set her sights on the annual world championships qualifier.
“I started to think ‘I might be alright at this’. I was looking at qualifying times and comparing them to my own,” she said. “This year’s qualifying event was in Brighton so I thought ‘I’ve got nothing to lose’.”
But the East Sussex County Council employee’s race was plagued with problems, from issues with her transition to the bike, a delay following an accident in the men’s race ahead and an injury.
“I’d been injured for a while, my soleus [calf] muscle had been bad and I had been finding running quite tricky,” Chantie said. “When I started the run my calf felt a bit sore and with 3.5km left to run it just went.
“Part of me thought ‘that’s it, I’m not going to qualify’ but I had to keep going, it was the first time my family have watched me compete and my mum, niece and sons Inigo, 12, and Luca, 15 were at the finish line. With a few hundred metres left, my son Inigo joined me and ran me home.
“I had worked so hard for this race and I was really upset,” she added.
Convinced she hadn’t qualified, Chantie faced an agonising wait for her results. In mid-October she received the news that she had qualified to represent Team GB in the 45-49 age group at the world championships in Canada.
Determined to make the most of the “once in a lifetime opportunity”, Chantie has employed a trainer and her preparation is well underway.
She said: “There is a real science to training. For the past two years I have been winging it and getting injured. I just want to give it my all at the world championships and know that I did the best I possibly could, and I hope that my story inspires others.
“I’m excited and nervous. I go from thinking ‘I can do this, I’m going to smash it’ to being full of self-doubt and wondering what on earth I was thinking!”
Chantie will be heading out to Canada in August with her partner Paul and sons, where she will be taking part in a parade through host city, Edmonton, before competing alongside Team GB athletes.
If Chantie’s story has inspired you to get on your bike, check out East Sussex Pedal Power, an East Sussex County Council-funded scheme which loans bikes and equipment for travel to work, training and education or to improve health and fitness.