Diane Modahl has quite the career to shout about. One of our most accomplished middle distance runners, she represented Britain at four Olympic Games, and won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games.
She made history by holding the English, British and Commonwealth records and was unbeaten by any other British athlete at her specialist distance of 800 metres for six consecutive seasons.
She went on to create the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation alongside her husband, Olympic coach Vicente Modahl, and was awarded an MBE for her services to sport and young people earlier this year.
The DMS Foundation is the official charity partner of UK Fast’s City of Salford 10K, which takes place on Sunday 9th September in Media City.
What first got you started in athletics?
I was spotted by a volunteer coach from Sale Harriers and his encouragement, support and finance helped me out enormously. He scouted me and told me that I had a lot of potential. I was 11 and didn’t even know what potential meant, but I just went along with it. He picked me up twice or sometimes even three times a week and drove me to all the way to Cheshire for training.
Who have been your biggest influences?
My family are definitely what drive me the most. They have helped make my dreams come true. My husband has always been a rock to me, and it’s through my families love and encouragement that I’ve continued to do what I love. We’re now able to help other young people who are in the same position that I was in as a child.
What is your proudest achievement?
I have three extremely proud achievements. In sport, my proudest moment is winning gold at the Commonwealth Games. In my professional life, since retiring from athletics, I’m extremely proud of The Diane Modahl Sports Foundation. And I’m so proud to witness a brilliant team working together effectively, resulting in the positive impact that DMSF has on many young lives. In my personal life, I’m extremely proud that I have had the privilege of raising three wonderful girls.
How does it feel to be a Commonwealth gold medallist?
Pretty amazing! It was one of the best moments for me and one of my proudest moments ever. Most people get emotional when they win, but I went the other way and had a huge smile on my face and was so grateful for all of the support. The bonus was breaking the Commonwealth Games record.
How did you hear you’d been awarded an MBE?
I received a text congratulating me from one of the Foundation’s members. I didn’t even know it was going to be announced at the time, so it was a shock. I received a letter about four weeks before asking if I would accept the MBE. It’s a massive honour for me.
Why did you start the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation?
My husband Vicente and I established The Diane Modahl Sports Foundation to provide children in disadvantaged areas of the north west, particularly Manchester, with the skills to make the most of themselves within sport, education and employability. People might be shocked to find out that Manchester is the fourth most deprived local authority and second most deprived for income deprivation. My experiences of growing up in a deprived community inspired me to establish the Foundation, as I knew somebody needed to make a difference.
What is your involvement with the Salford 10K?
We have around 20 people running for DMSF. Fundraising helps us to provide return transport for young people who are taking part in the Blackpool Track & Field Open Meeting. It is events like the Salford 10k that allow the Foundation’s teams to compete against others, many for the first time, and to experience competition outside of Manchester. Events such as these play a vital role in our fundraising efforts, but they also help to raise awareness of the work that we do to raise the aspirations of young people and give them the chance they need to succeed.
If things hadn’t worked out, what else could you have seen yourself doing?
Definitely nursing or something medical. I grew up watching my mum, who was a nurse, put on that uniform with a hat and the upside-down watch and it looked so powerful and strong. I even did my work experience in a care home and a hospital – and it’s most likely what I would have done if I wasn’t successful as an athlete.
Tell us one thing about yourself that people might be surprised to hear
I don’t know if I should say this but, I have a secret crush on The Rock aka Dwayne Johnson. Although it’s clearly not a secret now.
Name your three favourite things about Manchester
The people, the place itself, and the opportunities that are available to people in Manchester.
If you could change one thing about Manchester, what would it be?
This is way too easy – it has to be the weather. Manchester is perfect apart from its weather.
And finally, what do you love most about Manchester?
I love the fact that Manchester has given me the opportunity to be me. It has made me who I am, and I am proud to call it my home.