Our Burrells ambassador Franny Benali is no stranger to taking his fitness and endurance to the next level, in the name of charity. First came Benali's Big Run in 2014, followed by Benali's Big Race in 2016, and on April 29th 2019 Franny will be stepping up to the #IronFran challenge!
Seven Ironman distance triathlons in seven days, all with the ambition to raise £1million for Cancer Research UK, is an incredible undertaking for a great cause.
So why is the #IronFran so important to us at Burrells?
"Ever since I was a very small boy I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to run my father’s jewellery business. I used to hang out with him in his office at home, getting him to tell me what he was doing. I was fascinated by the variety of things that he did every day.
My brother and I grew up in the shops, helping out and watching customers coming and going and my dad and his colleagues helping them to choose engagement rings, wedding rings and other important, grown-up things. It was exciting and there was never a dull moment.
Our managing director Edward Ferris with Franny Benali at our Winchester Tudor Event
But it wasn’t just the business I was drawn to. There was always something else. As I grew up I realised that if things didn’t work out and I wasn’t destined to be a jeweller, then I would want a job helping people in some way. I’ve always felt a strong urge to support anyone that seems to be struggling."
WHY CANCER RESEARCH?
"We lost my mum to breast cancer when I was eight years old. She was beautiful, kind, caring and always thought of others before herself. She smiled all the time and made the best of every situation she found herself in. I don’t remember her very well, but I’ll never forget her smile.
Breast cancer survival rates have soared since the 80s, due largely to the incredible work by Cancer Research. But there is still so much still to do. Our family, like the families of so many of you reading this blog, has been affected again by cancer very recently. Therefore now feels like a good time to do something to help."
WHY FRANNY BENALI?
"Then there is Franny himself. Those of you lucky enough to know or have met him will know what I’m talking about. I met Franny and his wonderful wife Karen back in 2016 when we opened our new store in my home town of Winchester.
Franny already knew some members of our new team, and came along to support them. We didn’t meet properly again until early last year, when we started talking about ways we could work together. Franny and Karen had me over to their house to discuss things and I’ve never felt so welcomed - and it wasn’t just because of all the biscuits and mince pieces that the whole family pressed upon me as soon as I arrived! How are they so slim!?
The love and pride they have for each other and the support they give each other is inspirational and very special, so to say I was proud when Franny agreed to become a Burrells ambassador is a big understatement!"
"Franny has now announced his third and clearly most challenging undertaking yet: The #IronFran! For those who don’t know, an Iron Man Triathlon comprises of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by an 112 mile bike ride, with a 26.2 mile marathon to finish off the challenge.
I think if I set off now to do this I might get to the end just before I reached retirement, but an Iron Man challenge is small potatoes to a fitness driven man like Franny - so he’s doing seven of them.
One a day, for seven days. I’ll let that sink in for a minute…
Some would say that putting your body through as extreme an event as this is madness. But if you know Franny, you know that if anyone can achieve it, he can. You’ll also know that if anyone else did manage to complete a challenge as insanely difficult as this, there is no-one who could go about it with as much grace and humility. Franny’s sense of duty is truly inspiring.
Karen showed us a video that had been created about Franny’s first two crazy charity events. His first challenge saw him running fifty miles a day in order to visit all the Premiership clubs. That’s fifty miles a day, every day, for 3 weeks! The next one involved running a marathon and cycling over seventy miles every day, for 2 weeks!
Impressive doesn’t seem to quite cover it (maybe that’s the secret of the mince pie consumption)! But all joking aside, watching that video with Karen and Franny in relative privacy was a massive privilege."