Running Saint aims to raise £1m for Cancer Research UK in 1000 mile Premier League stadium challenge
Francis Benali, the former legendary Southampton FC defender, is about to tackle his toughest match-up yet – running nearly 1000 miles in three weeks to raise £1million for charity.
Fran, 45, is running to all 20 Premier League stadiums averaging between 40 and 50 miles a day to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK – a charity very close to his heart.
‘Benali’s Big Run’, sponsored by telecommunications company 4Com, starts on Sunday 24 August at St James Park, home of Newcastle United and finishes at St Mary's - home of the Saints on Saturday 13 September - the club he spent over 20 years of his 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. People can sponsor him by texting BIGR55 £3 to 70070 or donate at www.benalisbigrun.co.uk
Running to every Premier League stadium in the country consecutively has never been done before which makes this challenge even more exceptional.
Fran said: "I’ve been told by some 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.”
Fran added: “As well as a massive thanks to the sponsors 4Com, I have a brilliant support team who are preparing everything professionally to give ‘Benali’s Big Run’ every chance of success. They all believe in me. Now it’s my job to run 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.”
Benali, who has only one marathon under his belt 8 years ago, will join the elite group of ultra-runners if he achieves this feat.
Friend, ex Saint legend and Sky Sports pundit Matthew Le Tissier is giving Fran his full backing: "He's obviously mad but knowing him well I'm sure he will accomplish his challenge. I'm hoping to join Fran on some of the route to support him - although there’s no way my knees could take 40 miles in one day – never 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.”
Benali will be preparing for his big challenge by running around Southampton in the summer often covering up to 40 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.”
As well as a number of ex professional players, Fran will also be joined by his son Luke and daughter Kenzie throughout the three week challenge.
The former home grown Saints player with nearly 400 appearances is now following a career in coaching, broadcasting and motivational speaking. It looks likely he will have plenty of material for his new career.
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