2002 (age 15–16)|
Bhubaneswar, Khurdha District, Odisha
Budhia Singh (born 2002) is a former Indian long distance runner who became notable for his athletic feats as a child. He has been acclaimed as the world's youngest marathon runner. He ran from Puri to Bhubaneswar at the age of five covering 65 kilometres (40 mi) in seven hours and two minutes and was listed as the world's youngest marathon runner in the 2006 edition of the Limca Book of Records, an Indian record book.
Singh was born in Odisha in 2002. His father died at an early age. As a consequence of their poverty, Singh was sold by his mother to a traveling salesman for ₹850 at the age of two. Because of the ill-treatment thereafter, his mother sought out Biranchi Das, a local judo coach and orphanage operator, and asked him to take the boy on. Biranchi reimbursed the salesman's purchase price of Singh and the child came to live with Das and his other orphans at a local Judo Hall. One day Das caught him being a "saucy lad". He punished him by making him run, but then forgot about him; he returned after five hours and Singh was still running. After medical check up his heart was found to be normal even after running for hours. He then began to train him to run marathons. By the age of four, Budhia had run and completed 50 marathons. After running a record breaking marathon, Budhia was admitted to the SAI sports hostel in Bhubaneswar. However, he "felt like he was lodged in a jail." After staying in the hostel for almost nine years, Budhia is now at home, living with his mother, Sukantio Singh, and his sister.
Career and controversy
Budhia's running ability has led to celebrity status and he has appeared in a number of television commercials. These commercials and Budhia's fame allegedly led to significant financial gains for Das, which led to accusations of exploitation. An inquiry by Indian child welfare officials was launched in January 2006; Das refuted the allegations.
A feature-length documentary called Marathon Boy was released in 2011 that focused on Singh and Das's relationship over a five-year period from 2006. The documentary was funded by HBO & BBC Storyville, and was nominated for an Emmy. In the film, Budhia makes a withdrawal of his accusations against Das.
Singh was no longer running long distances by the age of 13 in 2015, and was running one or two hours of conditional training per day. Sambit Mohapatra, a sports journalist wrote that "He cannot even win his school race these days. Budhia used to run for kilometres. But his coach never tested his ability with other sprinters before he was shoved into the sports hostel...His future doesn't look promising". Despite this, Singh himself has said that he would like to one day represent India at the Olympics in the men's marathon.
Murder of Biranchi Das
Das was shot dead at Buxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar College on the evening of 13 April 2008. According to police, Das was sitting inside the judo centre with friends after a training session at the time of the attack. Das's murder was not related to his treatment of Singh; it resulted after Das incurred the wrath of a gangster, Raja Acharya, after Das reportedly tried to defend a model, Leslie Tripathy, who was allegedly being harassed by Raja. Das's murderers, Sandeep Acharya (alias Raja), and his associate, Akshya Behera, (alias Chagala) were sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2010.
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