The year 2022 which is fast approaching will be the twentieth anniversary of the famous Budhia Singh.
What? Don’t you know that Indian runner who hit the headlines for his athletic achievements? All this before even celebrating his fifth birthday! Imagine, documentaries tell his story and even a movie about his life was produced in Bollywood. So it deserves to devote a chronicle to it so much its history is at the same time fascinating, disturbing and, above all, sad.
Budhia Singh was born in 2002 in a slum in Bhubaneswar, in eastern India. His father died when he was only two years old. His mother then sells him 800 rupees to a commercial worker since she no longer has the means to provide for her needs. Although sad, these kinds of transactions are not uncommon among members of the poor castes of India.
Singh will not stay long in the hands of his new master as he sells it to Biranchi Das, a judo trainer who also runs an orphanage. The boy is responsible for performing various tasks for the maintenance of the judo facilities.
Budhia’s endurance abilities manifested by chance as to punish him for doing a poor job, Das orders him to run until he asks her to stop. But the latter forgot him and when he returned five hours later, he was surprised to see the young boy still running. The coach understands that he has in front of him a phenomenon and after having subjected him to a medical examination decides to direct him to running. But not just any distance. It will be the marathon!
A grueling workout
Each morning, Singh would start running at 5 a.m. and take a break at noon. After a light dinner and a nap, he returned to run until 4 p.m. It was like this seven days a week.
In May 2006, the world discovered him as he ran 65 kilometers in 7:02 between the towns of Puri and Bhubaneswar. His name is found in the record books as the youngest marathoner on the planet.
He then puts on endurance races and becomes a celebrity in India. Before he even reached the age of four, he completed 48 marathons! Take a break here to fully realize the craziness of this feat. The vast majority of runners will need a lifetime to run around 50 marathons and now a youngster under five does it in a few months!
Singh would continue to compete in national marathons until the age of nine, but his career began to fail due to unfortunate events.
In 2008, his trainer, Biranchi Das, was shot and killed during an altercation with a member of a street gang. The young man therefore loses the one who had served as his mentor for several years.
Das was, however, a controversial being and many accuse him of exploiting Singh for financial gain. The mother of the young prodigy had even sued Das for torture in 2007. Budhia then begins to distance himself from the grueling training plans to which he was accustomed and only runs one to two hours daily at the age of 13.
He is forced to stop running by the child protection services who will allow him to start again only when he is 16 years old. His career collapsed and he fell into relative anonymity.
At this age, Patrick Sang, trainer of the best marathoner in the world Eliud Kipchoge, offered to take charge of him. He believes in the potential of the young man. The latter nevertheless declines the invitation and prefers to train alone. He says he is aiming for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. He started a Twitter account to raise funds, but without much success.
Budhia Singh will soon be 20 years old and many are now wondering what happened to the one who made so much talk about him before he was five years old. He would live again with his mother and sisters. Many journalists have tried to speak to him in recent months, but to no avail. He refuses any interview and his neighbors say they have not seen him run for two years.
This is where I end this quick summary of Singh’s athletic career for an observation. How is it possible for a boy under five to run so many marathons? I believe all of this is downright impossible. He may have completed a few long runs, but his young body would have been unable to sustain such a physical feat.
Anyone who has ever run a marathon will understand me. You have to be strong physically and mentally to run 42.2 kilometers. Also imagine how much food this growing youngster would have had to ingest daily for such a workout. This story smacks of exploitation.
As India prepares to celebrate Budhia Singh’s twentieth birthday, it is to be hoped that the principal concerned has understood that he does not have to run for records or shine in the limelight. He has to do it for himself. To find peace.
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