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A long-distance runner who won't let adversity stop him

Fran Viegas (right), with Manuel Tenllado and Paco Contreras. Together, they are the 'BeerMenZ'.
Fran Viegas (right), with Manuel Tenllado and Paco Contreras. Together, they are the 'BeerMenZ'. / SUR
  • Fran Viegas, who was told he may never walk again, now competes in races and challenges to support worthy causes across Malaga province

Fran Viegas is an example of overcoming hardship and not being beaten by adversity. Ever since he was young, this enthusiast of long-distance running has had to deal with various major problems which have occurred suddenly and unexpectedly in his life, the sort that turn your world completely upside down.

The loss of his parents and his grandfather at a very early age marked Fran's character. Not only did he manage to get over that tragedy, but he also had a motorbike accident that made it look as though his life was going to be very different to the one he has today.

"I was coming home from work and a vehicle coming in the other direction crossed the solid white line," he says. The accident resulted in both kneecaps being completely broken and bad news from the doctors: he was going to find it very difficult to walk ever again.

Fran refused to accept that, right from the start. "I had a son who was nine years old. I was going to play with him and go running with him, no matter what it took," he says.

His recovery, which included physiotherapy and psychological support, was slow and took many months. However, it was successful. Little by little he became more mobile and after six months, he began to walk short distances: first with crutches, later without. And then he started to think that if he could walk, he could run again.

"I eventually managed a kilometre, and then three, and then five. When I was able to run 12 kilometres, it was three months before the half-marathon in Marbella so I made that my target," he says.

He becomes emotional as he remembers the moment when he crossed the finishing line and saw his son waiting for him there. "He was vital to my recovery. I owe him a great deal, because in many ways he was what saved me," he explains.

After that he began to run longer distances and eventually did a full marathon. That, and taking part in many other races in Malaga province, helped him to get to know other runners from the area.

The BeerMenZ

Through running, he made new friends and two of them have become inseparable: Manuel Tenllado and Paco Contreras. The latter is the son of 'Super Paco', a legend of trail running in the province. Together they form the BeermenZ, a group of superheroes with a passion for sport and beer and who, instead of a cape, wear a Scottish kilt. "Paco was the first and then we all ended up buying one. It gets us noticed, people can easily spot us when we're running in different places," he says.

The three take part in numerous races throughout the year and every summer they organise a charity event to give visibility to or help different causes. The last one, which they did last year, was a 1,500-kilometre run from France to Malaga, to raise funds for the Por Una Sonrisa association, which works with children with cancer.

The secret of completing a challenge of this magnitude is the relationship between them. "They are ten years older than me, but they are my brothers. We have so much in common and we all get very involved in what we're doing, it isn't just about running," says Fran.

Sweepers

They are popular and admired wherever they go, to such an extent that they are invited to many races to act as sweepers for those who are struggling. "A lot of people are on the point of giving up and we help them to carry on to the end. It's a great feeling, they are so delighted when they finish. We have a fantastic time and people are so kind to us. All we ask in return is that there is a cold beer waiting for each of us at the end!" says Fran.

These three superheroes are busy preparing for their challange this year, which will be in August. However, they are not giving any details yet. Fran only says it will be "a powerful event and will take place in Andalucía".

The trio have now formed an official charity, which helps when presenting projects to institutions and asking for their support. If anyone wants to get in touch with them, don't worry - it is easier than trying to contact Superman or Batman: just go onto their social media accounts and suggest a challenge for them to do. They may well accept it.