Andre Rostant, 58, Carnaby Street, Soho

Soho-based Big Issue vendor Andre Rostant has been carbing for 20 years in preparation for the London Marathon. His tactic worked and he, along with another vendor, managed to raise £4,000 for The Big Issue Foundation.

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I was one of two vendors to complete the London Marathon this year. It took me 6h 56min but my strategy was to walk – which I did, at a nice steady pace. 

My race plan was to not die – which seems to have succeeded. I had no aches or pains except a twinge in my quads on sitting and standing – and nothing dropped off during the race, in which I came a stunning 35,151st.

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I’m very chatty, so that slowed me down a bit. I’m pretty sure everyone around me was losing the will to live. Also, I stopped to play with steelbands along the way – notably Nostalgia Steelband. The crowds were fantastic and so enormously supportive. It was good to see so many happy people all in one place.

You could say I’ve been carbing up for 20 years! But I didn’t do much training for the marathon. I did one test walk about three weeks before the marathon and I walked 30 miles to make sure nothing would drop off and I wouldn’t die. I went from Tilbury to Southend and got lost in the marshes – I was like a hobbit trying to find Mordor. But I knew then that hopefully nothing terrible would happen in the marathon.

Nothing dropped off during the marathon, in which I came a stunning 35,151st

I’d definitely like to do it again. I think if I took it seriously I could do it in about five and a half hours if I practised and ran a bit more.

It’s terrific that Lee [Welham, the other Big Issue vendor who ran the marathon] and I have managed to raise £4,000 for The Big Issue Foundation. I know several of my customers have donated because I get a pop-up every time someone’s paid, so thanks to them for that. I went back out on my pitch the Friday after the marathon to sell the magazine in my medal and my top.

Andre Rostant with his medal Photo: Andre Rostant

I’m hoping the law firm where I work part time as an office assistant will match some of the funds donated. I’ve been at the firm for three years now. I walk around the office and apparently do useful things. They seem happy with me and I’m very happy with them.

I’ve been selling the magazine while working there for eight years and I’m still homeless now. I’m a single dad and I’ve lived in temporary accommodation all that time with my children, though the youngest is 12 now so they aren’t babies any more.

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The Big Issue Foundation has helped me a lot in the past so I was glad to raise money for them. They’re still digging me out of a hole even now. 

Working as a vendor is extremely useful as a flexible source of income because where I’m working now I couldn’t really work more than three days a week without real life overtaking me. I would forever be having to take days off and hours off for this and that.

ANDRE ROSTANT, 58 PITCH: Carnaby Street, Soho, London, all day Thursday/Friday, most Saturdays Photo: Andre Rostant

It allows me to do what I can at work and still do what it takes in real life in my own world. The Big Issue fits in with that flexibly and it is wonderful. I’m still in a hole but at least that’s helping to keep the worst ravages of homelessness away because being homeless is extremely expensive. When you live in temporary accommodation you end up spending more than if you’ve got somewhere permanent to live.

The Big Issue Foundation helps me to keep going. Thanks so much to them for giving me the opportunity to run the marathon. It really was a delight to do it.

Donations are still open to support Andre and Lee here

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Carnaby Street, London, UK