If I can inspire one person, that’s a good thing. And that’s why I like doing The Big Issue. Be your own hero.

I grew up in Brisbane, in the city. It was okay. School was the usual, didn’t like it so much. I’m dyslexic. I’m good with maths – can add up pretty quickly, when I want to. We used to go to the movies. I like anything with superheroes.

I’ve got a brother, he’s got four kids. He’s always calling me up. I get to see him every couple of weeks. His wife, Sabra, passed away about four years ago. She had cancer; at least she’s not suffering anymore. I did a tribute to her – I got a tattoo of her face with a phoenix around it on my leg.

I’ve had a bit of a break from The Big Issue – I’d been away for 10 years and just started back. I’m getting back in my element again, talking to people. I’m hoping to get regular customers. I used to have one. When I left, she said she’ll buy the magazine off the next guy who comes. I hope she reads this! She’ll probably recognise me as soon as she sees it.

I’m saving up to do my ultimate dream: the Ironman triathlon in Hawai’i. The bike ride is 180km, three-and-a-half-kilometre swim, and a 42km run. I was there in 2019 for the finals. I didn’t go in the race, but I trained with a few of the guys. It lit a fire. I’m trying to get up to Olympic level in six months. I think I can do it.

Twenty-two months ago, I did 10km in 46 minutes. I was surprised! The next day, I pulled my Achilles heel. I couldn’t run. It’s fine now. I’m strengthening it up as much as I can.

I’ll have to do at least six months of training, every day. I’ll go for a ride in the morning, come in and do The Big Issue, go back out in the afternoon to run, then swim the next day.

About 12 months ago, I did a bike ride from Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast. Seven-and-a-half hours in the saddle. I filled up my water bottle six times. Couldn’t walk the next morning. When I got to work, they took one look at me and said, “Go home.” You don’t start a marathon by sprinting, do you?

You have to keep a steady pace. Everything in moderation. I know what I’m capable of. There’s someone who inspired me. Guess how old he was when he did the marathon – 94! It took him 12 hours, but he did it.

I’m nervous but excited at the same time. It’s so expensive, though: at least $10,000 to get over there, accommodation, spending money. I hope I sell a lot of magazines. How many boxes do I have to sell to get to $10,000? About 50 boxes, or 500 calendars, roughly. I’ve already started.

If I can inspire one person, that’s a good thing. And that’s why I like doing The Big Issue. Be your own hero.

Gary sells The Big Issue at Central Station, Edward Street, Botanic Gardens and Victoria Bridge, Brisbane

Interview by Aimee Knight
Photo by Barry Street
Published in ed#677