New Indian Boy, 8, Runs 72k

Akash beats Budhia’s record, collapses

Eight-year-old runs 72 km, doctor says dangerous, father disagrees

Express News Service

Mumbai, September 24: He wanted to reach the Gateway of India by running 80 km at a stretch. But eight-year-old Mrityunjay (Akash) Mondol could not do so as he collapsed after covering 72 km. Still, he rejoiced: he had broken wonder boy Budhia’s record of 65 km.

Akash, as Mrityunjay is affectionately called, started his bid from Kalyan and could not end his run due to the scorching heat that led to fatigue.

He collapsed at Kemps Corner but did not want to accept his inability: “Me podi na (I have not fallen),” he said in Oriya. This boy from Ankoli Barampur in Orissa aims high. He wants an Olympic medal.

The Std IV student who had come to the city on Friday, had, in April this year, covered a distance of 70 km from Ujleshwar to Pashimeshwar temple in Orissa in barely six hours.

Sunday’s run was organised by the Rashtriya Oriya Pratisthan (ROP). Termed a peace run, it started from Durgadi Fort in Kalyan around 4 am and was supposed to end at the Gateway of India after covering places like Thane, Ghatkopar, Sion, Dadar TT, Shivaji Park, Siddhi Vinayak, Worli and Haji Ali. Mrityunjay was administered medicines as soon as he collapsed due to a heat stroke.

Dr Sunil Bhoir, who treated him, said: ‘‘When he was brought to the ambulance, his heart-beat was 140 per minute, which could have been dangerous. We had to cool him down with ice cubes for 20 minutes as his body temperature had risen to 104.’’

According to Bhoir, running 80 km could prove hazardous to an 8-year-old. ‘‘There could be foot and ankle pain and also problems in the cardio- vascular system. He could also suffer from dehydration,’’ the doctor said.

But the boy’s father, Padmacharan Mandal, had his justification : ‘‘He wanted to do it, so I let him. He has stamina and he has done it before.’’

Srikant Padhi, president of ROP, echoed his words: ‘‘He has stamina and he wanted to run. We supported him.’’

Mandal has been admitted to Gokuldas Tejpal Hospital. Doctors state his condition to be stable and out of danger.

That’s ridiculous.

and he’s not east or north african. kid: you=/= a medal shot. but the ethics of letting/making a kid run 45 miles at his age just make me wonder. i ran an easy mile and a half today b/c my track was occupied and can’t see how i’d do 30 times that… on a road.

edit: note the breakdown in form(not that you’d expect him to hold form that long).

Monday, 02 October 2006, 21:00, Channel 5, UK
“Extraordinary People: the four year old who run fourty miles”

“Budhia is no ordinary four-year-old. Since the age of three he has been running twenty miles a day.”

What the hell?!??! I have trouble just doin a mile. lol, thas just craziness!

Victory Or Death

Boy wonder’s story is painful viewing
By Jim White
(Filed: 05/10/2006)

Distance running, it appears after tuning in to watch the Great North Run (BBC1, Sunday) is something older people do. Or maybe it is just the strain of completing a 13-mile course that makes even the most sprightly - John Inverdale, for instance - look as though they have just staggered out of the post office after collecting their pension.

advertisementDistance running, at least in my experience of dragging reluctant limbs for miles on end, is something you do when you can no longer play proper games, a way of proving that you are still vaguely potent. It is, in short, mid-life crisis sport.

Well, not in India it’s not. According to a documentary on Five on Monday, over there it is not something you take up when you have lost your teeth, but before your first set have grown.

This was one of those documentaries whose title rather gave the game away. In the manner of The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, The Woman With A 20 Stone Tumour and The Middle Aged Celebrity Chef Who Made It Round The Great North Run (I may have made that last one up) it was entitled The Four Year Old Boy Who Ran Forty Miles. It came as little surprise, then, to discover it was about Budhia Singh, a four-year-old boy who ran 40 miles.

Poor little Budhia has led an eventful life. He was born in a slum in Orissa, the poorest state in India, which is about as wrong side of the tracks as it comes.

Worse, his father was an alcoholic who drank all the money his mother earned. So hopeless was his mum’s situation, she sold her son to a door-to-door peddlar for a tenner. It was not clear what this chap wanted with his new purchase, but he too was fond of the bottle, as well as mistreating the boy.

One day, Budhia retaliated by hurling stones at him, then ran away. Living on the streets, he was picked up by an Orissa philanthropist called Biranchi, who put him in the judo school he ran.

Biranchi’s motives seemed more transparent than the peddlar’s: he was filmed swimming semi-naked in the school pool with half a dozen small boys clambering all over him.

Sadly, if Budhia thought he had escaped from misery and exploitation, it seems Biranchi’s duty of care to the children was a touch lax. On one occasion, he punished the boy for swearing by making him run round the school courtyard. However, he forgot to tell the lad when to stop, disappeared for the day and appeared back six hours later to find him still running. At which point, like a character from Loony Toons, his eyes took on the appearance of a cartoon fruit machine.

From then on the tiny boy was sent on daily 20-mile training runs with an eye to his becoming a future Olympic marathon champion.

Those runs were beautifully filmed. Everywhere Budhia trotted, through stunning countryside and grubby town, he caused a stir. This being India, every step was followed by a crowd. People would pour across fields to watch him jog past, stand on bus shelters, follow him on bikes. His first competitive half marathon caused a near riot as well-wishers and media crowded round the tiny figure. Judging by the panicky look in his eyes, he was having about as much fun as that bloke who decided to compete in the Great North Run in unseasonal heat dressed as an ostrich.

Meanwhile, Budhia’s coach remained stubbornly defiant of conventional sports science. He pooh-poohed the idea the boy might, for instance, drink water during his runs. No liquid will pass his lips, Biranchi insisted; it would stunt his growth.

“If Budhia dies during a race he will be a martyr,” he said, in answer to a gathering band of critics. “And Orissa needs martyrs.” Not really what you want to hear your coach say before a race.

In a depressingly familiar pattern, as Budhia’s fame increased, so did the number of those seeking to use him as a platform for publicity. The state governor had Biranchi arrested for child exploitation. On his release, the coach asked the camera where the politicians had been when Budhia was being beaten up by a drunken peddlar. He had a point.

But Biranchi hardly reinforced his case that the boy was in better hands when he subsequently made Budhia run a record-breaking 40 miles non-stop in baking heat without water.

As the boy’s head rolled and rocked, as his eyes glazed, as he stumbled towards the finish line surrounded by an out-of-control mob, it made such painful viewing that you wanted to reach into the screen to help him.

How the camera crew didn’t just step forward and take the poor lad somewhere where his childhood would not be stolen from him is hard to fathom. Perhaps they were just mindful that had they done so, they wouldn’t have had a film.

The poverty in India painful and this is just another form of exploitation of the weak. By picking up a kid from a worse situation of abuse and exploiting the child in another manner hardly makes it correct.

On another note, little kids like these are forced to beg on the streets by the beggar mafia…these kids have no choices…it is a huge social problem and sadly an industry…and like everywhere else in the world the gap between the rich and poor gets wider…and human greed has no limits…

Hi Flyingspur,

It’s excellent to get some informed views from India.
Has this story received much media space there?

Is there excitement yet about the Commonwealth Games coming your way?

Hi KitKat1, Yes this story has been widely reported. India is going through a media boom alongwith an 8 percent Industrial growth! So you can imagine with about 70 news channels on TV and several print media channels, content is a constraint ! But I think most people are appalled at the exploitation of these kids.

Although we are not exactly a sporting nation given our history of forgettable performances in the Olympics :o , The Commonwealth games have generated some interest, but most of India’s sporting fans are more fixated on the upcoming Cricket world cup next year. Cricket has the largest following in India.

Perhaps the interest will grow as the date for the games come closer. The Government in Delhi has been promoting the common wealth games actively.