Stefan, Piccadilly rail station, Manchester

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Tell us about all these medals.
I have been very busy this year. I have taken part in different championships including the Balkan athletics championships and Bucharest marathon. I have won seven medals this year. The Balkan championships were held over four days. After the first three days I was in a lot of pain. I prayed to God for energy for the last day, the half marathon. I didn’t want a medal – I just wanted to do it and finish it. On that Sunday morning, the fourth day, I arrived at the start and I saw two people I know from Romania who are good at running and they asked me to be part of their team. I didn’t think I could do it but I found the energy to keep going and I finished the half marathon in 1hr 33mins. In October, I finished the international Bucharest marathon in 3hr 37mins. 

“For me, a week has 17 days, not seven. I must work to pay my rent”

Did you run as a child?
No. When I was a boy, I didn’t have power. At 23, when I finished my compulsory service in the army, I had a big problem with my breathing and I was off sick for a year. I was very unhealthy. And when I was 35 years old, I had a big belly and I was over 90 kilos. I felt very, very old. After that I started to get better. I changed my nutrition. I stopped eating meat. I stopped drinking alcohol. And then, step by step, I began to renew. I learnt yoga and martial arts and I started running about 12 years ago. Now it is part of my life. It is what I do. I am 58 years old now, 59 next April.

What do you think about when you run?
I make prayers. I sing to God. And I sing this song [to the tune of Jingle Bells] “Big Issue, Big Issue, thank you Big Issue. Big Issue, Big Issue, so much I love you.”

How else do you look after yourself?
I select my food. I do not make confusion in my stomach with a bin of rubbish. I think people should pay attention when they are choosing their food. I am fit because I run more, I work more, I come to my pitch early in the morning and I stay until late. For me, a week has 17 days, not seven. I am a hard worker. I have to work to pay my rent.

Do you still enjoy selling the magazine?
Yes. It is good to be back on my pitch outside the station. I get good sales here. Also I had a strange surprise on my pitch the other week. Someone came to me and they had a packet of cigarettes. He was about 35 years old. He said he wanted to stop smoking and that I could have his cigarettes for myself or to give to a friend. I took them. I said, I do not smoke because I am a sportsman, and I do not want to give them to my friends because I love my friends and don’t want anything bad for them. But I will keep them and I will put them in the bin for you. After an hour, another group of people came to my pitch and did the same – they gave me more cigarettes because they wanted to stop smoking. I said I will not give them to anyone or smoke them but I will make a prayer for you for this good choice you have made. It was a strange coincidence. Amazing!

What are your plans for the future?
In a few weeks I will apply for permanent residence of the UK because I will have been here for five years. I am so thankful that the English people have adopted me. Thank you to my customers! Thank you to my supporters!

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