Ex-footballer Benali visits Upton Park on 1,000 mile charity run

Francis Benali celebrates reaching West Ham's Boleyn Ground on his Benali's Big Run fundraiser

Francis Benali celebrates reaching West Ham's Boleyn Ground on his Benali's Big Run fundraiser - Credit: Archant

Former footballer Francis Benali has been to Upton Park many times throughout his career, but this morning was the first time he ran there.

Former Southampton defender Francis '�Franny'� Benali with his wife Karen, son Luke and daughter Ken

Former Southampton defender Francis '�Franny'� Benali with his wife Karen, son Luke and daughter Kenzie at West Ham's Boleyn Ground. - Credit: Archant

The ex-Southampton defender was at the ground as part of a challenge to run 1,000 miles between all 20 Premier League stadiums in just three weeks.

Benali, 45, is running between 40 and 50 miles a day in a bid to raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK.

He said: “I’ve been told 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.”

Francis Benali meets fan Joe Press, from Bow, east London, outside West Ham's Boleyn Ground.

Francis Benali meets fan Joe Press, from Bow, east London, outside West Ham's Boleyn Ground. - Credit: Archant

Today’s route across London will also see him take in the homes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Crystal Palace.

Benali, known to fans as Franny, added: “Cancer Research UK is a fantastic charity and has made a difference to thousands of people across the UK.

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“I want to raise as much money as possible – it would be great to hit a £1 million but every pound helps in beating cancer sooner.”

The final leg of Benali’s Big Run will see him finish at his former team’s home of St Mary’s on Saturday, just in time to see Southampton take on Newcastle - at whose ground his journey started on August 24.

Read more:

Stratford man to run 10km with sister for hearing loss charity

In pictures: West Ham United 1 Southampton 3

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