Alan Shearer, the former Southampton, Blackburn, Newcastle and England star is all set to officially launch Benali’s Big Run, as a tribute to his former Saints teammate.
Francis Benali, the legendary Saints defender, is about to tackle his toughest match-up yet, running nearly 1000 miles to all 20 Premier League stadiums across three weeks. Franny, 45, will run between 40 and 50 miles a day to raise money for Cancer Research UK, a charity that is very close to himself and his family.
He starts his multi-marathon attempt on Sunday 24 August at 8am from St James Park, home of Newcastle United, and the most northerly club in the English top flight. So far, nearly all the Premier League clubs have signed up to support the run by providing signed shirts and memorabilia that Fran will auction to boost the fundraising total.
‘Benali’s Big Run’, sponsored by telecommunications company 4Com, will finish at St Mary's, home of the Saints, on Saturday 13 September. It is a fitting destination for Fran, given that it is his boyhood club and spanned a 20 year career.
Fran is hoping to capture the hearts and minds of the British public, just as Eddie Izzard and Davina McCall have done with similar running challenges. Donations can be made by texting BIGR55 £3 to 70070 or via Justgiving by visiting www.benalisbigrun.co.uk.
Franny is delighted to have his friend and former teammate see him off from the starting line. He said: “Having Alan there is great and I really appreciate it. He’s a top man and it will be great spending a bit of time with him before I set off.”
A single run to all 20 Premier League clubs has never been attempted before and having consulted fitness experts, Fran has been told by some it can’t be done. Not to be put off, the ‘Running Saint’ is all the more determined to complete this challenge.
Fran said: "I’ve been training hard for this and building up to it over the last few months. I couldn’t have got to the start without my entire back-up crew who have played a vital role in all the preparation. It’s down to me now! I’ve got to run nearly a 1000 miles in three weeks averaging more than 40 miles a day. I don’t even have a rest day planned!”
Fran added: “As well as a massive thanks to the sponsors 4Com, I’m extremely grateful to my brilliant support team who have prepared everything so professionally to give ‘Benali’s Big Run’ every chance of success.
“I’m running for an amazing charity and the Cancer Research UK South team have been so supportive. We have raised over £30,000 already and I haven’t started yet! I hope that when people see how hard this challenge is they’ll support me with donations.”
Benali, who has only one marathon under his belt eight years ago, will join a select group who have undertaken an ‘ultra’ event of this distance.
Friend, Saints legend and Sky Sports pundit Matthew Le Tissier has given Fran his full backing, as well as pledging to run a few miles with him. "He’s given himself a great chance to achieve this, as he has trained hard and has a superb back up team. I'm hoping to join Fran on some of the route to support him, although there’s no way my knees could take up to 50 miles in one day, let alone for 21 days in a row!”
Bournemouth Telecommunications Company 4Com have the pleasure of being main sponsors for the event. Chairman and Managing Director Daron Hutt didn’t hesitate when Franny asked for his support. “Supporting Franny as the main sponsor for this amazing challenge is a real privilege for both 4Com and me personally.
“Benali’s Big Run is a wonderful idea and will raise a tremendous amount of money for Cancer Research UK. Running to every Premiership football ground will be an amazing achievement and we wish him all the luck in the world. All of the great staff here at 4Com are wishing him well and will be avidly following his progress throughout the 21 days.”
Diane Platt, Cancer Research UK Regional Fundraising Manager, said: “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.
“Support like this is essential to our work at Cancer Research UK, our vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured. Our ambition is to accelerate progress and see three-quarters of people surviving the disease within the next 20 years and its individuals like Franny and the team behind him who will help in achieving this.”
As well as a number of ex-professional players including former Saints team mate James Beattie, Fran will be joined by his wife Karen, son Luke and daughter Kenzie throughout the three week challenge.
Donate with JustGiving
Or text "BIGR55 £3" to 70070 to donate £3 *
* To make a text donation from your mobile phone please text “BIGR55 followed by the amount you would like to donate EG £1, £3, £5, £10” To text number 70070. For example if you wanted to donate £10. Text BIGR55 £10 to 70070