WHEN Jenni Falconer laced up her trainers to go for a run in her early days as a rookie TV presenter, she could never have imagined how, almost 30 years on, what began as a hobby to keep fit and clear her mind would have evolved into a key thread of her career.

That was 1995. Fast forward to the present day and Falconer, 48, is not only the host of the successful podcast, RunPod, but she is also co-founder of collagen supplement Kollo Health and this month has published her first book, Runner’s High.

It is perhaps little wonder, then, that our conversation is heavily themed around this subject as we discuss everything from friendships and inspirations to challenges and milestones.

“I never anticipated it would be something that would become part of my work,” says Falconer. “I have loved running for so long and I think you try to do what you love for fun. I didn’t think that what I loved would then turn into a podcast, then launching a health supplement and a book.

“It is really surprising that something as simple as running has become a key part of who I am and what makes me tick.”

Glasgow-born Falconer, who grew up in Bishopbriggs and Milngavie, made her TV debut as a Blind Date contestant in 1994. She went on to carve a broadcasting career covering travel and lifestyle segments for the likes of Big Country, Holiday and This Morning.

The Herald: Jenni FalconerJenni Falconer (Image: free)

These days Falconer lives in London with her husband James Midgley, an actor and director, and their 12-year-old daughter Ella. Since 2020, she has presented the Smooth Radio breakfast show in London on weekdays and the station’s UK-wide Saturday mid-morning slot.

Her other big passion project is RunPod, which launched in 2019 and has aired more than 350 episodes to date.

Celebrity guests have included Peter Andre, Amanda Holden, Eddie Izzard, Ruth Langsford, Anton Du Beke and Gok Wan among others, as well as big-name sports stars such as Dame Kelly Holmes, Sally Gunnell, Paula Radcliffe, Eve Muirhead and Eliud Kipchoge.

Falconer’s book Runner’s High is a companion volume for fans of the podcast, broken down into bite-sized chunks aimed at all abilities, from those keen to try running for the first time to anyone looking to ramp up their existing training routine.

It is packed with relatable anecdotes from Falconer herself, alongside expert advice. Nor does it shy away from less palatable subject matter (blisters, chafing, cramps, stitches, toenail trauma and “runner’s trots” all feature) with a plethora of tips on how to circumnavigate such ailments.

Here, Falconer shares some of the biggest lessons she has learned, busts a few myths and misconceptions, talks golf handicaps and reveals her ambitions for the near future.

Trying something new and scary

In the opening pages of Runner’s High, Falconer recounts her own faltering first steps when, aged 19, and dressed in her “incredibly stylish 1995 athleisurewear”, she left her third-floor flat in Hyndland, Glasgow, on a bitterly cold autumn day to attempt her debut run.

Said apparel comprised baggy men’s jogging bottoms with a big drawstring waist, a casual long-sleeved T-shirt, fashion trainers, a woolly hat and “a CD Walkman stuffed in my push-up bra”.

Falconer writes in her book: “I had no idea what I was doing, I had little confidence that I was running how ‘runners run’ and I certainly couldn’t maintain even a slow jog for 20 minutes without stopping. But I was doing it.


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“I had a burning sensation in my lungs and the back of my throat. It felt like my face was on fire, my hair was glued to my forehead with sweat, my ears were aching from the cold, my legs had acquired a corned beef-style quality and I could feel my heartbeat in every part of my body.”

It’s hard to equate this image with the woman who is about to take part in what will be her ninth London Marathon next month. Yet, that’s the whole point, says Falconer. This merely represented the first chapter in what has blossomed into a decades-long love story.

“I had left university to start presenting and was living in a flat on my own in Glasgow,” she recalls, when we speak. “I felt very isolated for a while. But starting to run around the same time really helped.

“Not only did it give me something to do on those occasions where I found myself on my own, but it gave me a bit more drive and made me feel like I had purpose.”

How running has changed her life

“There are so many amazing things,” says Falconer, a smile in her voice. “First of all, it is transformative in terms of confidence. I used to be quite shy and nervous. Although I worked in television from 18 or 19, it is still a nerve-racking business.

“Going out running helped me to conquer that fear of meeting new people, being immersed in all these groups, sometimes being the centre of attention and not necessarily feeling that I know what I’m doing. The imposter syndrome, I guess.

“It’s fascinating how running helped boost my confidence. I have no idea how it helped, I can’t pinpoint it, but it really did. Time out on your own gives you time to think, assess, see clearly and maybe just put things into perspective a little bit more.

“For me, it was the confidence first and foremost that impacted me. I have spoken to a lot of other people who have said that it has given them confidence, not just in running, but in other areas of life.

“Which is brilliant and very useful indeed, especially when you have a career talking to other people all the time.”

Forging meaningful connections

There is a beautifully touching section in Runner’s High where Falconer writes: “Every day for years, as I run home from work along the river, I see the same man with his little dog at least three times a week. We pass one another, nod, smile and carry on.

“One day I decided that I saw him so often, I really should say something. So, the next time I saw him, I stopped him. ‘I have to say hello,’ I said. ‘I see you every morning.’

“‘And I listen to you every day on Smooth,’ he told me. ‘When I hear you say goodbye on air, I know it won’t be long before I see you!’ His name is Dennis and he’s now what I class as one of my ‘running buddies.’”

It is a sentiment echoed by the presenter when we speak. “Running has opened doors in terms of introducing me to new people and giving me new friendships,” she says, when asked about the special place the running community holds in her heart.

“You make new friends, who aren’t from where you are from. You don’t know them through work or the places where you socialise; these are people you know through running. You might pass them on the street while running, know them to say hello and you make a connection.

“A few years ago, a collective invited lots of what they called ‘running influencers’ - people who posted about running on social media or talked about running - to a meet-up. I was invited because running is a passion of mine.

“There was maybe about 30 people. It was a half-hour run in a London park. We all went to the pub afterwards and talked about running for hours. To this day, several years on, I still see them and follow them on Instagram.

“We see each other at races and will all be hugging. They are lovely and listen to my podcast. These are friends that I have made simply through running. It is so nice.”

The Herald: Jenni FalconerJenni Falconer (Image: free)

Running is for everyone

“There are so many people who take up running later in life and the first thing everyone says is, ‘I wish I had started sooner …’” says Falconer.

“It doesn’t matter your age, shape, size or ability. You can walk/jog, you can walk/run, you can run and stop for a breath every now and again. You can run, you can jog, you can plod, you can sprint, you can run a long way, you can run a short way - there are so many options.

“Just because you are of a certain age or at a certain place in life or been through a certain experience, it doesn’t mean that running isn’t an option for you.

“My neighbour’s dad started running in his late sixties. He is now in his late seventies and has done several marathons,” she continues. “He is amazing. He is not going to win the marathon, and neither am I, but doing one is an incredible achievement.

“Likewise, doing your first 5K parkrun is an incredible achievement. There really isn’t any competitive element. When you take up running, no one is expecting you to deliver a haul of medals. It is about getting to enjoy and appreciate all the benefits you get from it.

“Whether you are fast or slow, whether you run far, or just up and down the road where you live, it doesn’t matter. You will feel the benefits. The worst that could happen? You might even like it.”

Building a happy headspace

“There is an element of therapy when you run,” explains Falconer. “It can be your meditation or a place where you can talk to a fellow runner and it is almost - a bit like what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas - what happens on a run, stays on a run.

“You can find yourself outpouring everything you feel to your running buddy. It can be almost a form of therapy in itself.

“Then, when you get home, you go back to your normal life and say goodbye until your next run. And that’s it. You have offloaded. It is almost like by running and talking, you take the weight off your shoulders.”

The secret of a runner’s high

It is the title of her book and in one chapter Falconer explains the actual science behind what she dubs the “hormone heroes”, such as serotonin and endorphins, that contribute to the post-run feeling of elation known as “runner’s high”.

But what does the term mean to her? It is a subject that fascinates Falconer. “Every time I do an episode of the podcast, I ask everyone about their runner’s high,” she laughs. “The runner’s high can be so different on every single day.

“It can be the joy of getting home after a run. It can be the joy of lasting the first 10 minutes, which can be difficult and challenging. It can be the joy of running in the rain. It can be that overwhelming sense of achievement when you run fast, a little bit further or for the first time.

“A runner’s high, science aside, is just the joy of running. No matter whether it is the relief of getting home, smiling at the fact you are running through beautiful woods, running at sunrise or sunset, there is a runner’s high that will happen on every single run you do.”

Runners who inspire her

Falconer reels off a list of fellow runners who inspire her and they aren’t perhaps who you might first expect. “I love Sara Davies from Dragons’ Den,” she says. “She just loves the joy of running. She doesn’t run to win anything. She is totally relatable.

“There was an episode of the podcast I did recently with John McAvoy [a Nike athlete and a motivational speaker] and he was amazing.

“He was in prison in his early twenties, he was an armed robber and deemed quite a dangerous inmate and put in solitary confinement for a lot of the time.

“While he was in prison, which was a period of more than 10 years, he found the gym and started to exercise. His story about how running and exercise has transformed his life is absolutely fascinating. His life is completely different now.

“He used exercise to transform his attitude, his approach, his reason for living. And that, for me, is one of the most inspiring episodes.

“But, equally, it was hugely exciting to chat to [two-time Olympic marathon champion] Eliud Kipchoge. He was at home and I could tell he was in the kitchen when I was chatting with him because they were quite clearly cooking.

“I was like, ‘Erm, are you in the kitchen? Could you maybe move out of the kitchen?’ It was hilarious. I was in London and he was at home [in Kenya] chatting to me about the joy of running. That was amazing and the most inspiring conversation.”

The Herald: Jenni Falconer at the end of the London MarathonJenni Falconer at the end of the London Marathon (Image: free)

Dream podcast guests

If she could have anyone in the RunPod hot seat, who would it be? “I really want the Prince and Princess of Wales because they are hugely competitive,” says Falconer.

“They are supporters of the London Marathon, as well as supporting fitness and wellbeing for young people through to adults. They would be fascinating to talk to and I know that they both run. They are the ultimate on my hitlist.”

Other sporting endeavours

“I absolutely love golf,” she says. “I took it up about five years ago. I’m obsessed with it, but the problem is I just don’t have enough time to play as often as I would like.

“When I come home to visit my mum and dad, I play as much as I can near Glasgow. I love being outside. I love the fresh air. I love the fact you switch your phone off and are away from texts. That is all important to me.”

As for her golf handicap? “I do have one, but it needs to be updated,” says Falconer. “At the moment, it is 13. I’m probably way worse than that now because I haven’t played as much for a few months.”

Future ambitions

Falconer is certainly spinning a few plates in life and as far as she’s concerned, that is exactly how she likes it. 

“Do you know what? I just want everything to keep going,” she says. “My ambition has always been to keep working and I’m proud that I have been able to work. I have not really had a period of quiet in terms of work for 30 years and I would like that to keep going.

“I want to be able to keep running. I want to be able to keep doing the things I love. Being able to choose and make wise decisions where I only do the things I love doing. That, to me, is important. And to have health and happiness with my family and friends.

“My ambitions have changed,” admits Falconer. “I used to have goals of big TV shows and big career moves and think about maybe one day going to America. I did go out there and I did experience the opportunities and I actually chose not to make the move.

“I chose to stay here, have a family and keep going with life. I chose to move into radio. I love where I am and whatever happens, as long as I’m happy doing what I’m doing, long may it continue. That is my ambition now.”

Runner’s High: How To Squeeze The Joy From Every Step by Jenni Falconer (Orion Spring, £16.99), is out now