The biggest running event of the year, the London Marathon, is just around the corner – and one person who will be on the start line on October 2 is Radio presenter and podcast host, Jenni Falconer. In fact, it’ll be her ninth time completing the gruelling 26.2 mile race.
“It’s quite frankly the best day ever,” the 46-year-old says of the famous event. “I’m the most excited in the world to do it” – providing a niggling injury doesn’t get in her way. And with a personal best of 3:31:02, she’s a seriously high standard.
“There’s something so lovely about the spirit of the marathon, it’s such a special race; the camaraderie, the community, the crowds, the sights, the fact that you go to the finish line by Buckingham Palace,” she adds.
The Glasgow-born presenter and mum-of-one is perhaps best known for her TV work in the early-Noughties on The National Lottery Draws, GMTV’s Entertainment Today and currently as This Morning’s travel reporter, as well as hosting Smooth Breakfast’s London morning show on weekdays (6am-10am) and the UK-wide show on Saturdays (10am-1pm).
If that sounds like a painfully early start, she calls her current 4am wake-ups an “actual life-changing lie-in” compared to the 2am starts she did in her previous role, presenting Heart’s early breakfast shows. “I was destroyed by the end of the day,” she admits. “They were tough years, I was a new mum [to now 11-year-old Ella], I’d fall asleep giving her dinner.”
Running has always been a big passion, ever since she took it up aged 19 in a bid to lose weight and get fitter, while living on her own for the first time in Glasgow. She’d gone up “three or four dress sizes within a year – I was enjoying the good life, eating Liquorice Allsorts, going out with friends, and not really ever thinking about keeping fit and active.”
So Falconer took up running – in “dreadful, baggy, horrible men’s tracksuit bottoms and trainers that probably weren’t running shoes”. Her first big aim was the run around the city’s Botanic Gardens. “Eventually I did it, and then the aim was to run for 30 minutes without stopping, and then eventually running just became the thing I did.”
Running the seven miles home from work in London five days a week enabled her to weave it into her day. “For years, I finished work at 6:30am and generally people are in bed or going to work, so I’d go for a run then, and I’ve just got in the habit of running solo.
“I just love it. It’s hard – sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes I don’t enjoy the first mile of a run,” she admits. “But generally, I come back in and say, ‘I’m so pleased I did that’. I don’t think you will ever regret going for a run, but you will regret not going, procrastinating and missing your window of opportunity. I know if I can fit a run in, I’ll be a better person for it.”
She fully admits she likes running “because I like to eat cake – I want to do both, I want to make sure I enjoy my life”, but running provides Falconer with much more than physical benefits.
“You can get creative, you can get clarity, you can get a little bit of breathing space. For me, I get quite stressed because I get quite busy and I don’t have time to do everything, then it gets worse. If I got out for a run, I take myself out of the situation – and suddenly put everything into perspective,” she shares. “I’ll come back, I’ll be a completely different person, very chilled out, and I can see everything with clarity.”
The solitary time on long runs allows her to organise her thoughts. “One marathon, I planned my entire wedding. [she married Emmerdale and Corrie actor James Midgley in 2010] It was the most useful three-and-a-half hours I’ve ever spent in my life. No-one interrupted me, just me and my own thoughts.”
It’s not all about getting organised though – sometimes she’ll “just aimlessly look at trees and wildlife or the water and zone out”, Falconer adds. “It’s almost like when you dream, you wake up and you can’t remember your dreams; sometimes after a really good run, you come home and you can’t remember what you thought of, but it felt good at the time – that’s probably my equivalent of meditation.”
It’s been 12 years since Falconer got her marathon PB, so she’s not expecting to break it this time: “There’s absolutely no chance, I don’t run as much, I don’t have as much time to train, I’m not in the same shape.”
But, taking care of herself is still a big priority – Falconer also recently added a new string to her bow, co-founding Kollo Health, a liquid collagen supplement brand, which she believes “helps your cartilage, your joints, repairs your muscles after exercise, and also has the advantage of being great for your skin, nails and hair, and specifically brilliant for women going through menopause and perimenopause.”
Impressively, she’s finished all eight of her marathons so far within the same 10-minute period. One year, she knew she had to finish within four hours – to get ready for the red carpet at the BAFTAs that afternoon.
Long-distance running doesn’t have the same expiry date for competitors as sprinters and Falconer is in no hurry to stop any time soon.
The biggest barrier she faces to running marathons at this point in life is time. “When I was in my early 30s, I wasn’t a mum – I was with my husband, he was my boyfriend – but my life was very much dictated by what I wanted to do,” Falconer reflects. These days, she’s so busy with work and childcare that “it’s become a bit of a scheduling nightmare, the whole training thing”.
Falconer even hosts a running podcast called Run Pod, in which she chats to famous faces – from Eliud Kipchoge (the marathon world record holder) to Amanda Holden and Lorraine Kelly – about why they too love running. She’s also an avid golfer, hosting a second podcast, The Women’s Golf Show.
So, there isn’t a day when she’s not either running, playing golf, doing Pilates, CrossFit, weight training or walking her dog. “There are things I do where I’m not on my phone, on email, all these things don’t rely on technology. With golf and running and walking, you’re completely committing to it, for the next two hours I’m here, phone’s off, and that’s just me – it’s the best.”
Does she think anyone can potentially run a marathon? “It’s something I always say: do it once. But likewise, you do have to take training very seriously, you need the time to allocate,” she says. “There are few people who can rock up on race day and bash out 26 miles.”
Jenni Falconer is co-founder of Kollo Health liquid collagen supplement (kollohealth.com)