Francis Benali, the legendary former Saints defender, is about to tackle his toughest match-up yet – running nearly 1000 miles in three weeks to raise £1million for Cancer Research UK.
It’s a charity very close to Franny’s heart, as he explains in the video below:
‘Benali’s Big Run’ starts on Sunday 24th August at St James Park, home of Newcastle United and finishes at St Mary's - on Saturday 13th September – coincidentally when Saints take on the Magpies in the Barclays Premier League.
Running to every Premier League stadium in the country consecutively has never been done before and having consulted fitness experts, Franny has been told it can’t be done. Not to be put off, the ‘Running Saint’ is all the more determined to prove the experts wrong.
The ex-defender, who club spent over 20 years of his career with Southampton, said: "I’ve been told that ‘I’m mad’, ‘it can’t be done’, ‘don’t do it’ – but it’s made me even more determined to succeed. This challenge has been nagging away at the back of my head for years. It's hugely demanding I agree, but that's why I'm so motivated to do it.
“Cancer Research UK is a fantastic charity and has made a difference to many thousands of families in the UK. I can't thank them enough for their support as well as my sponsors 4Com who have also made this happen. I want to raise as much money as possible – it would be great to hit £1 million, but every pound counts. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far.”
Close friend and fellow Saints legend, Matthew Le Tissier is also giving Franny his full backing, but will choose which part of the route he joins Benali on very carefully.
"He's obviously mad, but knowing him well I'm sure he will accomplish his challenge,” said Le Tissier. “I'm hoping to join Fran on some of the route to support him - although there’s no way my knees could take 50 miles in one day – never mind 21 days in a row!”
Diane Platt, Cancer Research UK Regional Fundraising Manager, added: “Our work is only possible through our amazing supporters, and Franny, his family and team are so determined to raise as much as possible to fund essential research and treatment of all types of cancer.
“We can’t thank everyone on team Benali’s Big Run enough for their hard work; they are an inspiration, after pulling together a team, sponsors and getting Franny training in just four weeks. Their dedication to make this challenge happen will help us to beat cancer sooner.
Benali will be preparing for his big challenge by running around Southampton in the summer often covering over 20 miles a day.
“If you see me on the roads give me a honk!” said Fran. “I’ll need every bit of encouragement throughout this training and the campaign.”