Saints legend Franny Benali is set to take on his toughest challenge yet by completing 7 Ironman challenges in 7 days in a bid to raise £1m for Cancer Research UK.
The Southampton dad-of-two, who has just turned 50, will swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and then run a marathon EVERY DAY for seven consecutive days for his third epic fundraiser for the charity.
He’s thought to be the oldest man in the UK to take on such a gruelling challenge which will see him once again journey across England with the aim of raising vital funds for research.
It’s by far his most physical challenge yet but one he is determined he can complete.
Franny said: “This is my third physical challenge for CRUK and it felt right to add a third discipline into the mix, but swimming is unbelievably tougher than I ever anticipated.
“I have really clear memories of being taught to swim in the old central baths in Southampton but it was never something I enjoyed. I had a very strict teacher who used to walk up and down the side of the pool with a stick. I had problems keeping my legs and bottom up and floating.”
Benali’s IronFran Challenge will begin on Sunday April 29th and will see Franny travel across England by running and cycling after every day’s swim, calling at cities including Liverpool, Manchester and London before returning home to Southampton where he will take part in the city’s marathon on Sunday May 5.
He added: “Ever since the last challenge finished my mind has been focussed on the fact that we are still short of the £1m I promised to raise for Cancer Research UK and what I should do next to make sure we get there.”
He dreamt up IronFran while on holiday with his wife Karen, in November last year and began training at the start of the year.
Franny said: “It just seemed the perfect fit. My first challenge, Benali’s Big Run, was over three weeks and involved just one discipline which was running from club to club.
“Benali’s Big Race was over two weeks and involved running and cycling between Premier League and championship grounds.
“So it was right that this third and final challenge would be one week and three disciplines so we added the swimming.”
He added: “I can honestly say I didn’t realise the swimming would be so difficult and I have been really struggling.
“I know that with running and cycling, if you train hard and put the hours in you will improve and you will be able to do it, but in the pool the technique has to be right – I’d underestimated that.”
Franny could find himself facing 18-hour days on his mission to complete IronFran and is taking expert nutritional advice to prepare his body as best he can.
He will be supported by Karen, his children Luke and Kenzie and a host of family and friends who are backing him to smash his £1m fundraising goal.
Fran said: “Having a focus every day is hugely important to me. Knowing the money I raise will directly fund immunotherapy research, which could have, is hugely motivating.
“I wouldn’t have contemplated any of these challenges without the unwavering support of my family and I have no doubt that it’s going to take that – possibly at another level again – to get me through this one.”
Professor Peter Johnson, director of the Southampton Cancer Research UK Centre, said Franny’s fundraising will have a profound effect. He said: “Much of our immunotherapy research here in Southampton focuses on new treatments in the form of antibody therapies and cancer vaccines.
“The pace of progress is amazing and very energising. It is an exciting time, as there is so much new knowledge coming into the field and new ways of treating people. Immunotherapy drugs are showing great promise for a lot of different types of cancer, but more research is needed to figure out which cancers these drugs can be used to treat, and which patients are most likely to benefit from them.
“The money that Franny is raising for Cancer Research UK’s work into immunotherapy will help us answer these questions sooner and ultimately, help more people survive the disease.”
Jenny Makin, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Hampshire and Dorset, said: “As fundraising challenges go, they don’t come much tougher than this and we are absolutely in awe of Franny’s determination and dedication to reach his £1m goal for Cancer Research UK.