Southampton legend Francis Benali back in the saddle, visiting 44 club grounds

Former Southampton footballer Francis Benali plans to run a marathon and ride a bike more than 120 kilometres every day for the next fortnight to raise money for the charity Cancer Research UK.

The 47-year-old, who made more than 300 appearances for the South Coast club, scoring one goal, set off on his journey yesterday morning from AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.

He will finish his fundraising trip at the St Mary's stadium of Southampton FC, Benali's home town club where he spent almost all his career.

He set off from Bournemouth yesterday on the first leg of the challenge to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Benali’s route will take him into south Wales to tick off Cardiff City and Swansea City, then through the Midlands to the north west of England before heading down the east coast and Yorkshire then through East Anglia and London to the finish in Hampshire.

He admitted that he felt "nervous and apprehensive” at the prospect of running and cycling 1,600 kilometres, but insisted, “I'm ready.”

“It'll be good to get the first day out of the way and hopefully the legs won't be too tired at the end

"I am a bit nervous because I know the pain that lies ahead. I just want to get it completed and make it a success.

"The disease has not gone away and the charity still need funds as desperately as ever so that will be my motivation through the pain of this challenge."

The former defender undertook a similar challenge two years ago when he ran between all 20 Premier League stadiums within three weeks and raised more than a quarter of a million pounds for Cancer Research UK, his efforts winning him the inaugural Spirit of the Game award that year.


Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.