FRANNY Benali has raised more than £12,000 for Saints Foundation and NHS Charities Together after completing his gruelling Garden Marathon on a treadmill.
In sweltering conditions, the former Southampton FC defender finished the 26.2 miles in just under five hours after a monumental effort.
The challenge aimed to raise funds for good causes locally and nationally, and Benali smashed his original target of £2,600 by more than £9,000.
His achievement was made even more remarkable by his lack of training having decided to run the marathon just 10 days prior to Sunday’s event.
During the marathon, he was joined by his former teammate Matt Le Tissier, via video call, who ran ‘alongside him’ for eight kilometres.
If that wasn’t enough of a challenge, Benali also wore a selection of different Saints shirts from across his playing career, including the shirt worn during the 2003 FA Cup final against Arsenal.
Speaking about his effort, Benali said: “In a strange way I really enjoyed it. It was amazing to see all of the comments and well wishes coming in and that drove me on.
“I was going a little bit into the unknown given the lack of training, but the legs feel ok. Running on the treadmill was different. At one point I had some discomfort in my knees and I had a couple of near misses, when I nearly fell off the back of the treadmill, but thankfully, managed to stay on.
“It was incredible and so humbling to see all of the donations coming in. It always makes challenges like this worthwhile.”
The run coincided with the nationwide 2.6 Challenge campaign, which aimed to raise money on the same day as the London Marathon would have taken place for charities across the country.
Greg Baker, Head of Saints Foundation, knows just how important days like these are for both his charity and others around the nation.
He explained: “We are so proud of Franny’s efforts. He came to us with a crazy idea and we were more than willing to help in any way we could.
“His support for Saints Foundation has always been incredible and he has once again captured the public’s imagination and raised an incredible amount not just for us, but for NHS Charities Together, who are supporting those that are working so hard to keep us all safe during this difficult time.
“We can’t thank Franny enough for what he has achieved.”
But it wasn’t just Benali who was out raising money for Saints Foundation on Sunday.
Joining in were staff members from the Foundation alongside the Southampton FC Women’s team, who collectively walked, rowed, rode and ran 26.2 miles for the community cause.
Greg Baker added: “To see so many people, not just from the club, but from the wider community get behind us has been inspirational.
“A special mention to one of our staff members, Gareth Byres, who, like Franny, took on the challenge of running a marathon around his local roads. We are so grateful for everybody’s efforts – it will help us continue to transform lives in our community and support those who need it during this unprecedented time.”
If you would like to donate to Benali’s Garden Marathon you can do so by going to his Virgin Money Giving page: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FrannyBenali.
And if you want to find out more about Saints Foundation’s work head to southamptonfc.com/saints-foundation.