Southampton football legend, Franny Benali, has smashed his £1m fundraising goal for Cancer Research UK – just days after completing his third and final challenge for the charity.
The 50-year-old, who is recovering from his gruelling IronFran challenge which saw him complete five Iron Man distance triathlons, hit the target overnight.
The milestone came just 48 hours after he returned home to a hero’s welcome in Guildhall Square, Southampton, where more than 1,000 people had turned out to cheer him home.
Franny announced his ambition to raise £1m for Cancer Research UK in 2014 after seeing family and friends affected by the disease. He decided to specifically raise the money for immunotherapy research – harnessing the body’s own immune system to spot and kill off cancer.
His first challenge, Benali’s Big Run, took place that year and saw him run an average of 50 miles every day at Premier League football clubs.
In 2016, Franny was back on the road in a bid to swell his fundraising, this time running and cycling up to 110 miles every day between every Premier League and Championship club over two weeks.
His third challenge – IronFran – saw him attempt to complete seven Iron Man distance triathlons in seven days, swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and completing a 26.2-mile marathon.
The dad-of-two managed four consecutive days before he was forced to withdraw on medical grounds and missed day five and six of his challenge. However family and friends, his support team, staff and scientists from Cancer Research UK and members of the public took up the baton on his behalf and completed the miles for him.
Franny was given the go ahead to attempt his final day of the challenge back on home turf in Southampton on Sunday and he was on the start line for the Southampton marathon.
He left the city centre around 40 minutes after completing his marathon, on a bike, with a peloton who had turned out to join him for the homecoming 112-mile leg to Guildhall Square.
“I am absolutely thrilled to have smashed my £1m goal for this amazing charity – it was the best news to wake up to this morning.
“As a family we are all quite emotional to have not only made it, but to have pushed beyond the target I set myself in 2014 and we will definitely be celebrating.”
“I cannot thank everyone enough for the support they have shown me, for lining the streets, for making the banners, for popping up in the most obscure places to give me a wave and a cheer and for welcoming me home in such an incredible way on Sunday night. It was a night I will never forget for as long as I live.”
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said:
“I would like to congratulate and thank Franny for his phenomenal achievement in raising £1m for Cancer Research UK.
“We have been in awe of his incredible determination to reach that goal since he started out on the first of three physically-demanding challenges five years ago.
“The money Franny has raised will help us bring forward the day when all cancers are cured, as well as develop kinder treatments.”