Dioreann Hughes, Road Race Grand Prix Winner

Doireann Hughes won the 2023 Edinburgh Athletic Club Road Race Grand Prix. “A few words” with Doireann for the local paper turned into a full-blown interview… Unfortunately the full interview was too long for the paper, but it’s an interesting read. See below, with thanks to Doireann!

Original article in the Edinburgh Evening News

What’s your background?

I am from a small village in County Mayo called Carnacon, in the west of Ireland. I come from a relatively big family. I have two sisters and two brothers. Most of them are living in Ireland, however my sister Róisín moved over to Edinburgh a year ago.

I grew up playing Gaelic football. I represented teams at club and county level. I was lucky to have a considerable amount of success with these teams, as we have won a number of club All-Ireland titles with Carnacon Ladies. It was through playing football and playing alongside some of the best Irish athletes that I developed my love for sport, training, and honed my competitive nature. 

I attended Mount St Michael secondary school in Claremorris in Mayo. I had some great years in secondary school and formed great friendships with girls that I am still very close with to this day. The school provided a great environment for learning but also developing extra-curricular skills. 

After secondary school I went to Galway University where I studied Biomedical Science for 4 years. After university I worked as a sales representative for a year, before deciding to return to education. I came over to Scotland and got my postgraduate degree in medicine from the University of St Andrew’s and the University of Dundee. I continued to travel back to Ireland to keep playing club football. Understandably, this becomes harder every year, but I love the Gaelic football community, and am very grateful for everything it has provided in my life. 

How did you end up in Edinburgh?

As a final year medical student, a lot of my time was spent on placement in Fife. I chose to live in Edinburgh and commute for my placement. I really liked living in Edinburgh, and having my sister in the city too has really helped. After my final year placement, I applied for my foundation year of training (similar to an internship) in Edinburgh, and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to live in Edinburgh for another two years. 

How did you get into running?

I was always generally quite active. I enjoy the outdoors and playing any sport possible. I ran the Dublin marathon in October 2022 with my school friend Annie. I loved training for it. After the race, I knew I wanted to continue in running, and run a sub-3 hour marathon. But I wasn’t sure how to go about it, especially when my schedule for university and my part-time job were so demanding.

From there I reached out to Phil Sesemann for coaching. He’s an elite British long-distance runner and he’s also a medical doctor like myself. I was inspired by his ability to simultaneously navigate careers in medicine and in running. He encouraged me to join a running club in Edinburgh, so I went to a couple of the Edinburgh Athletic Club sessions at the Meadows on Tuesday nights. The first session I did with the club was 3 x 5 minutes with 1 minute “on” and 1 minute “off”. I thought this session was the hardest running session I ever did, but it didn’t put me off!

Prior to joining the club. I didn’t feel very settled in the city and would go back to Ireland to see friends and family as often as I could. EAC has provided a lovely sense of community for me in the city. I love having the routine of training but also developing friendships with different people from the club. I feel really “at home” in EAC!

I was never part of an athletics club growing up. I am so delighted to have fallen into the sport at this point in my life. It’s a nice reminder for people that it is never too late to join a club or return to sport at any point in their lives. 

In action in the white vest

Who has helped you in your running career to date? 

I am very thankful to Phil Sesemann for all his coaching and advice since I started working with him in November 2022. I feel like his coaching methods focus on the person as an individual and also as an athlete.

When I joined EAC in November 2022, I started attending the Saughton track sessions with Garry Robertson. He’s always in such good form on a Tuesday night. No matter the weather conditions he is committed to the session. Garry is such a gem of man. I really feel that his expertise, advice and coaching this season have helped me develop as a runner. 

I’m very grateful to all my clubmates too, especially Euan Duernberger and Rose Penfold. I spend a lot of time running with them. I really appreciate the conversations I have with them about sport and life. They are always very encouraging and supportive of my journey in the sport so far. In addition, I would have a special mention for my other teammates that join the track sessions on a Tuesday evening at Saughton. These are sessions that I would find very difficult to do alone!

How do you balance training with a demanding job?

Personally, I feel that training helps me copes with the demands and pressures of working as a junior doctor. It’s the point in the day where you can switch off and have a healthy release. I imagine this balance is one way of ensuring longevity in both a professional career and a running career. 

How was your season? What were some of the highlights?

The season has been an absolute blast from start to finish, and there have been so many highlights. I love racing, and some may say I over-race. I am aware that the more I race the harder it is for me to get a PB every time. But I feel like I learn something new every time I go out.

I enjoy travelling around Scotland supporting local races. I love the rawness of them. One in particular that stands out was the Giffordtown 5km. It was a small race of around 300 people. It was an out and back race. Running down a little boreen road. Cattle going ballistic in the fields. Loose carrots on the ground. It was brilliant! I also love the post-race analysis, chatting with folk that you wouldn’t normally cross paths with, but people who you are connected to via the passion of running. 

Dublin marathon

I ran the Dublin Marathon in October 2022, and loved the race and the training process. I ran 3:27, but I knew I wanted to carry on and try to break 3 hours for the marathon.

National Cross-Country

Another highlight was the National Cross-Country in Falkirk. I had never done cross-country before, and didn’t know what to expect. It was my first proper outing with EAC, and I loved that day! It was like a little festival – everyone with their tents, camping chairs and packed lunches. It was just good, honest, wholesome fun. It was lovely to be a counter for EAC, and we secured second position on the podium. 

EAC senior ladies: National cross-country silver medallists

Back: Fiona Davies, Margot Wyrwoll, Doireann Hughes, Rose Penfold
Front: Elaine Eadie, Sarah Brown

Manchester marathon

I had entered the Manchester marathon in April and was hoping to hit the sub-3 hour time. I was so lucky on the day and ran a time of 2:59. It was so special to be able to celebrate this occasion with my friend Euan Duernberger as he ran an amazing time of 2:38 on the day, and he was waiting at the finish line for me. After the race we sat outside stuffing our faces with pizza and basking in the PB glory!

Edinburgh marathon

I had an entry into the Edinburgh marathon in May as a back-up if I hadn’t got the sub-3 from Manchester. The Edinburgh marathon was very hard that day especially with the heat, and I suffered from going out too ambitiously. 

Loch Ness marathon

Later in the year, I ran the Loch Ness marathon and came second on the day. It was a huge highlight for me this season.

I found the build-up to the marathon very difficult. I had just started my new job as a junior doctor, and a couple of races I had entered during the build-up didn’t go to plan. Nonetheless, I just kept to the plan and would incorporate laps of Arthur’s seat into my long runs to prime my legs for the infamous hills in the Loch Ness Marathon. 

Loch Ness is a winter marathon and so the weather can’t be trusted… When we were getting the bus from Inverness to the start line, there were hailstones battering us. Conditions were cruel. I thought to myself, “How am I ever going to run a marathon in this weather?!” Meanwhile Euan was pretty content, sleeping soundly beside me on the bus. However once we got to the start line the weather had improved, but it continued to spit with rain throughout the race. I think we got all four seasons on the day!

It was pretty special during the race when the crowd were shouting at me in the last 5km telling me that I was the second female. If someone had told me this time last year that I would be the second female in a marathon, I would have never believed them. 

On the home straight at the Loch Ness marathon

How was it to win the EAC Road Race Grand Prix?

It was really special. There is definitely a feeling of “imposter syndrome” to it! The club has so many fantastic female athletes. I was delighted to receive it, especially when you see all the names engraved on the trophy from previous years, people who are so inspiring to train with and watch compete. 

What are your plans for 2024?

I’m going to run in the cross-county races in January and February, then I’ll run the Scottish half marathon championships in Inverness in March and the 10-mile championships at the Tom Scott in Strathclyde Park a few weeks later. I’m going to run the London marathon in April, it’s also the Scottish championship. After that, I also plan to run the Scottish 5km and 10km championships too, they are all EAC road Race Grand Prix events…!

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