Franny's finish line fantasy

Franny's finish line fantasy

Franny's finish line fantasy

First published in Sport Basingstoke Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Sports Reporter

Franny Benali can already picture the moment.

In less than 24 hours, the Saints legend will begin his epic challenge of running between all 20 Premier League grounds.

Yet, as he stands on the brink of this daunting and gruelling task, it is the image of a packed St Mary’s cheering him across the finish line that he is holding in his mind.

“I have thought about it,” said the 45-year-old, who is hoping his 1,000 mile run will raise £1m for Cancer Research UK.

“It’s like a picture and image that I can visualise. That will be huge. To achieve that and reach that point would be amazing. It’s difficult to put it into words.

“For me, the perfect scenario would be to arrive at St Mary’s on September 13 and to see the total top that £1m mark.”

Benali’s Big Run, as it has been dubbed, will get under way tomorrow, at 8am, from Newcastle United’s home ground, St James’ Park.

Ex-England captain, and Benali’s former teammate, Alan Shearer will wave him off from the starting line.

“I’m really excited, I can’t wait,” said Benali.

“For a little while now, I’ve just wanted to get the challenge started.

“There are a few other little emotions that creep in too obviously, such as a small element of apprehension at not knowing exactly what’s in front of you.

“But you’ve got to remain positive and look forward to it.”

Benali’s challenge will require him to run for about 40-50 miles a day and, although he has been training for months, he knows that can only prepare him so much for the pain that may lie ahead.

“I’ve experienced a certain amount through training,” he said. “Having run 40 miles in a day, I’ve known how I felt at the end of it and also the following morning when I wake up.

“Of course, during the training you have the luxury of making that next day a recovery day, but I won’t have that during the challenge.

“I’m expecting to get a few more aches and pains, but hopefully not too many serious issues that will hold me back. But I know the challenge will be harder and more extreme than the training has been.”

Benali will be followed for the entire journey by a support team, including his wife, Karen, and his children, Luke and Kenzie, as well as a physio and others.

He believes their presence will provide him with an enormous lift as he looks to win what will almost certainly be a huge mental, as well as physical, battle.

Benali is interested to see how he handles that part of the challenge, hoping his background as a professional sportsman will help his mindset.

“I’m intrigued to almost find out myself,” he said.

“There’s an element of the way you approach anything, especially in sport, of overcoming difficulties and having the mental attitude you need to achieve your goals.

“But this is going to be very different in a lot of ways, such as the length and distance of it.

“That’s why the treatment and recovery process, everything from ice baths and massages, to eating and drinking the right things, is as crucial as, if not more important than, the running itself.”

Benali revealed he has been well taken care of in the past few months, admitting he will probably owe his family a few favours once the run is over.

“I’ve become a little bit of a diva,” he said, laughing. “The family often give me a little look like ‘Once this challenge is over, you’ve got a lot of payback to do.’ “I’m going to be quite pampered in a way on the run too, so I probably best make the most of that.”

To sponsor Benali, text BIGR55 and the amount you would like to donate to 70070 (e.g. ‘BIGR55 £5’), or visit benalisbigrun.com.

Comments (4)

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7:37am Sat 23 Aug 14

J7junctionseven says...

\good luck Franny. We'll be cheering you on when you get to St Marys.
COYR FOADP
\good luck Franny. We'll be cheering you on when you get to St Marys. COYR FOADP J7junctionseven
  • Score: 5

8:43am Sat 23 Aug 14

jls217 says...

J7junctionseven wrote:
\good luck Franny. We'll be cheering you on when you get to St Marys.
COYR FOADP
Hope there is a big turn out for him.
[quote][p][bold]J7junctionseven[/bold] wrote: \good luck Franny. We'll be cheering you on when you get to St Marys. COYR FOADP[/p][/quote]Hope there is a big turn out for him. jls217
  • Score: 1

10:04am Sat 23 Aug 14

oh when the saints says...

Good luck Franny!

I hope it all goes well!!
Good luck Franny! I hope it all goes well!! oh when the saints
  • Score: 2

11:01am Sat 23 Aug 14

Velleity says...

Don't just read this and think "I'll donate later" - do it now. Great cause, terrifically difficult task. Give up your burger at today's half time and send him the cash.

Stop reading and donate now. Now.
Don't just read this and think "I'll donate later" - do it now. Great cause, terrifically difficult task. Give up your burger at today's half time and send him the cash. Stop reading and donate now. Now. Velleity
  • Score: 3

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