Presenter Jenni Falconer: I’m terrified of change – but sometimes you’ve got to try new things

Runner’s High author Jenni Falconer.Runner’s High author Jenni Falconer.
Runner’s High author Jenni Falconer.
Jenni Falconer does not believe we should ever put ourselves in a box.

“If you have an opportunity, then go for it,” says the Scottish presenter and podcaster. “Because you never know how many opportunities you’re going to have.”

Being pigeon-holed is something she’s quite familiar with from years of working in TV.

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Falconer, now 48, began working as a TV presenter after appearing as a contestant on Blind Date as an 18-year-old student, eventually working on shows including GMTV and This Morning before shifting to radio (she currently hosts Smooth Radio’s Breakfast show).

She recalls: “When I started, I was doing an action-adrenaline sports show on BBC Scotland, and it was brilliant, but I had come from Blind Date and people were like, ‘Oh no, you’re the contestant from Blind Date, not interested’.

“Eventually, I earned the reputation of being a presenter – but I was then only known for the programme I’d just done. I went on to do documentaries and consumer shows for ITV, then tried to move into travel and light-hearted things, and they went, ‘Oh, you’re a bit serious for this’. Eventually they gave me a shot, and then I got known for doing travel.

“Honestly – you’re only known for your last show! That happened for years and years,” adds Falconer, who also has a daughter, Ella, 12, with her husband, former Coronation Street actor James Midgley. “I have no problem being known for doing something, but everyone’s capable of doing so much more.”

It’s something she’s discovered first-hand in recent years.

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In 2019, Falconer launched RunPod, her running podcast in which she chats with guests who share her love of running (she’s been a keen runner since her late teens), and the following year launched collagen supplement brand, Kollo Health. Both have been a success – but that’s not to say Falconer doesn’t find trying new things scary.

“My husband is actually very good, because he encourages me to try new things. I’m quite terrified of change,” she admits. “I’m like – ohhh I don’t know, what if it doesn’t work? What if I make this change and it’s a massive disaster?

“I launched the supplement brand with my husband, actually [they’re co-founders of the company], we did that four years ago and it’s now a huge part of our lives.

“But if you’d asked me 10 years ago if I’d be running a business, turning over a lot of money and that we’d have like, eight staff, I would never have believed you. And if you told me I’d have a podcast, and I’d have a book, I would never have believed you. So, I think sometimes you just have to try things.”

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The book – Falconer’s first, called Runner’s High – brings together everything she’s learned from her own experiences as a lifelong devotee, and from speaking with various podcast guests over the years (recent famous names on the series have included sports presenter Gabby Logan, The Traitors contestant Diane Carson, and TV personality and DJ Gok Wan, who just recently started jogging).

Part guide, part running memoir, it also weaves in stories from other runners – covering training, kit essentials, the devastation and learning curves of injuries and everything in-between, and ultimately the reward that comes from pulling on your trainers and getting out there, whether it’s a gentle pavement plod once a week or chasing PBs in a marathon.

“The minute I tell anyone I’ve done a book, they’re like, ‘Is it about running?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, how did you know?’,” laughs Falconer, who’ll be doing her ninth London Marathon in April.

It’s no surprise she gets this reaction, though. “I can’t really pinpoint a precise moment, but I started running and then within a year, everyone just knew I ran, that became a thing. My family knew, my work colleagues knew,” she recalls. “I think it’s because wherever you go, you take your running kit and you find a window, you just you see running opportunities [everywhere].

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“I’ve always tried to run my commute home, whether it was from GMTV or This Morning, or now the radio.”

She wanted the book to feel inclusive and appeal to all runners – regardless of how fast/slow someone is or the distances they’ve completed.

“That really was key to me. When I first had meetings with the publishers, I said, ‘You’ve got to realise that I’ve created a podcast that is wholly inclusive’. I want to chat to people who are Olympians who’ve won gold medals for running, but I also want to chat to people who hate running – who have just started, aren’t enjoying it, but some for some reason they keep coming back.

“Because running is so beneficial to so many people, and there are so many joys to it, and there are also moments when everyone hates it,” Falconer adds. “But it doesn’t matter whether you are a newbie, whether you’re a rubbish runner but you give it your best shot, or whether you’re at the top of your game, there is something in it for everyone.”

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She gets that “there is a lot of fear of failure”, which can often hold us back from doing things, in case they’re not ‘good’ at them.

“So, I wanted to do a book that reminded people it doesn’t really matter, because the only person you’re competing against is yourself. Don’t worry about how your mate’s doing, because they’ve got a different journey to you.”

Although running’s always been a big part of her life, its overlap with Falconer’s career wasn’t something she’d previously envisioned.

“I think that’s what’s a total joy about it,” she says. “People always say, if you can turn your passion into your work, you’re winning – and I never once thought that running could be something I’d do in a work capacity, it’s just something I’ve always done.”

She’s a “different person” after a run.

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“A lot of people go to the gym and they feel good, or go for a swim, some people go for a walk. Some people write journals, some people meditate,” says Falconer. “My meditation is running.”

Runner’s High: How To Squeeze The Joy From Every Step by Jenni Falconer is published by Orion Spring, priced £16.99. Available now.

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