Benali is on the run at PNE ground

Francis Benali at Cancer Research UK's lab
Francis Benali at Cancer Research UK's lab
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A former Premier League footballer is to visit Preston North End’s football ground this week as part of a mammoth fund-raising challenge for Cancer Research UK.

Francis Benali, 47, is running and cycling to all 44 Premier League and Championship grounds in just two weeks in a bid to raise £1m for the charity.

Francis Benali

Francis Benali

To complete the Benali’s Big Race challenge, the former Southampton FC player will cover at least 100 miles a day - running one marathon and cycling the remaining distance every day.

The challenge started at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium on Sunday October 2 and will finish at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton - where he spent more than 20 years of his career - on Sunday October 16.

As part of the route, Francis will be arriving at Preston North End FC’s Deepdale football ground at 8.45pm on Thursday October 6 having cycled from Wigan.

He will then set off from Deepdale again on Friday to run 10 miles to Blackburn Rovers and then on to Burnley FC.

This is Francis’ second fund-raising feat in aid of CRUK.

His first challenge in 2014 - running from Newcastle to Southampton via every Premier League club in just three weeks - raised a phenomenal £265,000.

Francis said: “The first challenge was far tougher than I ever imagined, not just physically but mentally and emotionally too. But my pain and suffering was nothing compared to what cancer patients and their families go through every day.

“Last year, my father-in-law Bill was diagnosed with prostate cancer so I’m even more determined to raise as much money as possible to help conquer this devastating disease. I’m hoping to top my previous fund-raising total with all the money raised going towards CRUK’s work into immunotherapy across the UK.

“The support I received in 2014 was incredible and hopefully people in Preston and across the UK will be just as generous this time around. Every pound donated will support CRUK’s pioneering work in immunotherapy, helping to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”

Every day, 110 people are diagnosed with cancer in the North West.

Alison Barbuti, Cancer Research UK’s spokesman for the region, said: “We are delighted Francis is taking on yet another awe-inspiring fund-raising challenge to raise much-needed funds.

“Thanks to the dedication and commitment of our supporters we can continue to fund vital research to get new and better treatments to cancer patients faster.

“Immunotherapy drugs are showing great promise for a lot of different types of cancer, but more research is needed to figure out which cancers these drugs can be used to treat, and which patients are most likely to benefit from them.

“The money Franny is raising for CRUK’s work into immunotherapy will help us answer these questions sooner and help more people survive the disease.”

To track Francis’ progress, visit http://www.benalisbigrace.com. To donate £5, text FRAN to 70200.