IT is his toughest challenge yet.

As if Benali’s Big Run and Benali’s Big Race were not enough, Saints legend Franny is now preparing to complete seven Ironman-distance triathlons in seven days in his quest to raise £1m for Cancer Research UK.

The dad-of-two, who has just turned 50, will swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and then run a marathon every day for a week.

#IronFran would complete a remarkable trilogy.

In September 2014, Franny ran to all 20 Premier League grounds and in 2016 he ran and cycled to every Premier League and Championship stadium.

His efforts so far have raised approximately £670,000 but his next epic endurance challenge – which begins on April 29 – will be his toughest yet.

While Franny has no shortage of running and cycling experience, he admits he is not a natural swimmer.

“The extent of my swimming since I was a youngster, when I got some Frosties swimming badges, has been dipping into the pool on holiday to cool off and nothing more!” he laughs.

“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.”

Since he and his wife Karen came up with the idea while on holiday in November, Franny has been taken aback by the training requirements.

“It’s been a concern of mine, I completely underestimated it,” he admits. “I thought as long as I put the hours in the swimming wouldn’t be a problem.

“But it’s very technical. It’s all about getting the right body position and breathing properly to make me an efficient swimmer so I’m as economical and relaxed as possible and don’t blow up before the bike ride and the run.

“My coach, Lucy Williams, taught my children Luke and Kenzie to swim as toddlers,and now she’s teaching dad!

“She’s been great but I don’t know how I’ll react to a 2.4-mile swim day after day. I’m finding it hard to a do a few sessions a week for an hour and a half.

Hampshire Chronicle: Franny Benali training for his 2.4-mile swimFranny Benali training for his 2.4-mile swim

“The most I’ve swum in a session is 1,500 metres - and that wasn’t constant.

“I’m building up my stamina and getting the drills in. There’s still a lot of work to be done.

“The swim has to ease me into the other disciplines because I’m potentially looking at 16-18 hour days.

“What will make it even tougher is the lack of recovery and downtime so I can get up the next morning and do it all again.”

Franny will be doing all seven swimming legs indoors.

“The logistics are still being worked on but ideally the accommodation and pool will be very close to limit the travelling and maximise that recovery time. It will be such a small window - and I love my sleep!”

“I’m a little anxious about it, I must be honest, knowing that at this moment in time I’m not ready.

“There’s a lot of work to do in the next eight weeks, not just in the pool but on the bike and running as well.

“From a training perspective that’s what I’m finding tough.

“It was relatively easy to train for the Big Run, I just ran out of the door.

“But with three disciplines to prepare for there’s a bigger time commitment.

“It’s a completely new environment for me. I’m so out of my comfort zone, which adds that interesting element to it.”

Franny battled through knee, Achilles and hamstring injuries during his first two challenges and is prepared to go through the pain barrier again.

“You would think there shouldn’t issues with swimming and cycling with them being low impact, but even in the pool my shoulders and neck are a bit tense as I’m using my upper body more than I’ve ever done.

“So it’s a challenge in every way.”

Taking his fundraising for cancer research past £1m is Benali’s constant motivation - and the thought of running the Southampton marathon during his final triathlon on May 5.

“Six of the days will be swim/bike/run but on the last day I’ll do the Southampton marathon second,” he explains.

“I can already visualise taking part in that with thousands of others, then finishing with a bike ride which will end back at the civic centre - probably in the dark.”

To track Franny’s progress, visit, which will include interactive challenges.

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