Jenni loves running and insists it’s something everyone should try
You’ll have to run pretty fast to catch up with Jenni Falconer. But today the TV and radio host, podcaster, supplement developer, Instagram influencer and now with a shiny new running app, the Glaswegian-born presenter, 44, is spending a rare moment sitting still. We’re at Wimbledon Common near her home in south London where we’re sitting at either ends of a park bench for a social-distance interview.
It’s nice to get out, she agrees. Jenni drove here today with her eight-year-old daughter, Ella, and a friend, but as she begins to talk, you realise she’d prefer to run wherever she’s going. It’s just her way. And after finishing her breakfast shift at Smooth Radio it’s time for her to get active again.
“Running home is the way to do it,” she reveals. “It was always quicker running than getting a car, but during lockdown it would’ve been quicker in the car. I run home most days, but only home, not in [to work].”
So there are limits – and now her family is involved, too.
“Sometimes, when I’m running home from work, Ella and James [her husband] will cycle up to meet me and, you know, James and I will swap sometimes so he can have a bit of a run so I can cycle along. We go out as a family, too, and that’s nice. It’s just lovely to get outside and get as active as you can during the summer.”
Jenni’s “active” is impressive. Where does it all come from? After all, she could just sit in a studio and play 80s records on Smooth for the rest of her days.
“I don’t know, it’s just this enthusiasm for something that makes me feel good,” she confesses. “It’s free and it’s fun. I’m never going to win a marathon or a race – this year would’ve been my ninth marathon.”
Jenni says the switch from TV to radio was a great move for her
“The problem is, this year [for the London Marathon], obviously they’ve not been able to raise their money. They did their 2.6 challenge but it wasn’t quite the same. Hopefully, if it [the marathon] happens in October, they will be able to raise more.”
Keen runners will welcome a marathon category on Jenni’s new running app, Start 2 Run, which is available to download. And she stresses the app is for all runners, whether beginners or veterans.
“You can be starting out or you can be using it to progress to the next level, whatever your next level may be, and it goes right up to marathon programmes. It’s basically an app that offers lots of guides to running distances.”
Jenni accepts that many people can feel self-conscious about starting to run. But they needn’t, she insists. “A lot of new runners have contacted me on Instagram during lockdown and they’re worried about what they’ll look like – about red face.”
“But you know, once you’ve been for your first run you’ll realise tracksuit bottoms aren’t right and maybe you need a decent pair of shorts or you need a new pair of trainers. Once you realise the basics, I actually think you go out and soon forget what other people are thinking.”
Jenni has also encouraged her non-runner husband James, whom she married 10 years ago, to start running during lockdown.
Jenni has released a running supplement called Kallo which contains liquid collagen
“But he won’t run with me,” she reveals. “He’d never run before, he refused. It’s only when lockdown started that he started running. I was suspicious because it gave him an hour out of the house.”
“But he started running and he set himself the mission that he wanted to run a 5k and his first 5k was 38 minutes and he was destroyed. But he was like, ‘Right, I’m going to keep going’ and his 5k last time he went out was 27.5 minutes. He still says he’ll never run with
me. I think he doesn’t want me competing with him.”
Many readers will recall her husband, the Bradford-born actor James Midgley, 45, from his time in TV dramas Cutting It and Ackley Bridge. But he’s now moved on to other things.
“Luckily, he has his own digital marketing company, so he has been working with that and also we developed a product which we launched just as lockdown happened, so he’s been very much working on that,” Jenni says.
“It’s a health supplement called Kollo and it’s something that complements running.”
“It’s liquid collagen. I take it every day and you’ll notice some real benefits. It aids recovery after exercise. It helps slow down the ageing process, it will help reduce signs of ageing, thickens your hair and strengthens your nails,” she adds.
“We’ve had lots of incredible feedback from people saying it’s helped their eczema, their psoriasis and lots of people have been in touch saying the pain from arthritis has been really helped.”
Jenni has long been a familiar face on ITV breakfast and morning TV shows. She got her start while at Leeds University where she dropped out of a languages degree course, which included the study of Latin, to pursue a career in showbusiness.
“My brother has never let me forget it,” she says.
“I started doing adrenaline shows in Scotland then I moved to documentaries for ITV – and I was only about 22. Then I went to consumer shows for ITV like Watchdog, then holiday programmes, then GMTV.”
Jenni is proudest now of her live shows. “I did a show called Entertainment Today with Ben Shephard, who’s still a good friend of mine. It ran for eight years and it was so much fun, just the best thing ever. It was just enjoyable, I met my best friend there and I’m still good friends with the bosses. It was just a lovely show to develop live skills on.”
“Then to go work on This Morning, which was obviously a dream job for any presenter. I’ve done travel shows, property shows, entertainment shows…”
“You know it’s funny, people still come up to me and say, ‘Fantasy Homes By The Sea – when are you filming that again?’ I say I stopped filming that eight years ago.”
“People also recognise me from the Lottery show, which feels like a different life for me. I love all the jobs I’ve done and say bring on more variety.”
Radio offers a better work-life balance for the presenter now, though.
“When I had Ella I was still working, doing Fantasy Homes By The Sea. I’d go away for a week and then come back for a week to see her, because she was only a few months old, and then I was doing bits for This Morning, sometimes for Lorraine.”
“Then I got the opportunity to do radio. If I’d carried on doing the TV stuff I would’ve missed her, because I was travelling. In January I was given the Smooth breakfast show, so I’m now on 6am to 10am, which is a total lie-in after doing the earlier show and it’s life changing. My whole world is different.”
When Jenni worked early shifts on radio it meant having nighttime catch-ups with colleagues.
“We’d all meet together, all the other early breakfast show presenters – LBC, Capital, Smooth, Heart – and we’d meet for coffee at 3.30am every morning by each other’s studios. So all our Christmas parties would be breakfast at 6.30am. Now we’ve all moved up the ladder a bit, which is nice.”
Running during lockdown is one thing, but will it continue into winter? As ever, Jenni remains positive.
Jenni hopes her daughter will stay active and keep enjoying the outdoors
“In the winter months when it’s bit colder and the days are shorter it will be a lot easier to find excuses. But a lot of people have bought gym kit now. Everyone on Instagram has become a personal trainer. I think it’s brilliant. The more people that can motivate you to be healthy, the better. “
“My little girl over there, I just want her to be active. She loves dancing and playing and just being outside but, of course, it’s been difficult over the last few months. She’s been limited in what she can do.”
With almost 200,000 followers on Instagram, does she get trolled? “Everyone’s really nice – I hope I’m not just missing all those comments – but I’m certainly not aware of any trolling. I’ve always found people to be really nice. But I certainly wouldn’t put anything massively controversial up to try and get people to debate and heckle. I’m not that kind of person.”
“Sometimes I look at the comments people get and think how do you do it? It seems unfair and cruel that someone gets so famous that other people feel they can form an opinion on you and then vocalise that opinion.”
“I don’t think you should be allowed to do that openly. I’m all for encouraging positivity and friendliness to each other. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.” All of which sums up Jenni nicely.
Jenni’s app, Start 2 Run, is available now.