Indian Marathon runners

The New York Marathon ended last Sunday, with one of the closest margins of victory ever in a marathon race, when Paul Tergat defeated the second placed runner in a mad dash at the end of a gruelling 42 km and 195 feet. He scampered home with a second to spare.

Thus in a week of marathon news, two Indians have been in the news for running marathons. One is 3 year old Budhia Singh and the other is the evergreen Fauja Singh at 94. Two extremes, in a sport where our nation has no representation at the international level.

The BBC reports

Officials in India’s eastern Orissa state fear a three-year-old who has become famous for running marathon distances is being exploited.

Budhia Singh is a running phenomenon and effortlessly seems to gulp away the miles under his tiny feet.

Budhia recently ran non-stop from the holy town of Puri to Bhubaneswar, a distance of 60km (37 miles).

A few days before that, he ran non-stop from Bhubaneswar to Cuttack – 35km.

Reading the title of the article, and the first thought I get is….”is this safe”. I mean it is one thing for a seasoned adult to attempt to cover this, and I for one know how difficult it is to run even 2 miles….!!

There are concerned voices raising the issue

During a recent visit to Orissa, former top Indian runner, PT Usha, also said running for 50 to 60km so frequently could have disastrous long-term consequences for Budhia’s health.

Budhia in his young life has already seen a far larger share of action than people ten times his age.

Budhia had been sold by his poverty-stricken mother to a man for 800 rupees. Mr Das summoned the man who had bought Budhia and paid him his money back.

Budhia’s coach claims that he is being monitored medically and I hope to God that he is correct.

But Budhia’s mentor, Mr Das, is undeterred by the criticism. “A team of three doctors conducts regular check-ups on Budhia to find out if anything is wrong with him.

The other marathoner is Fauja Singh who has been running marathons for a long time. I personally had the opportunity to see him run when he participated in the New York Marathon in 2003. It was a very happy occasion to see him run past our apartment on Lafayette Avenue here in Brooklyn, NY.

This year Fauja ran in the Edinburgh Marathon…

A 94-year-old athlete was first off the starting blocks as 11,000 runners took part in the annual Edinburgh Marathon. Fauja Singh, the official starter for the race, was among 6,000 marathon runners and 5,000 relay competitors who took part in the event.

Fauja Singh, who is from the Punjab in India, but now lives in Ilford, Essex, was last year signed by Adidas for the ‘Impossible is Nothing’ advertising campaign.

In 2003, he set the marathon world record for over 90-year-olds, completing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in five hours and 40 minutes.

These two are truly a case study in what human beings can achieve if they set their mind to it. On the one hand I am proud as an Indian to hear of this, but on the other I lament, that we do not have more of them.

Tomorrow when I get on the treadmill at the local gym, I will try to run the extra mile for the sake of these two marathoners who make India proud.



  1. There are hundreds of Indian marathon runners in the US. Check out Team Asha. They also run for other NGOs. All you have to do is see the results of any marathon and check out the number of desis who participate.

    Last Saturday, six of my Indian friends ran a 50 mile race in Sacramento. Their results are here

    There are many desis who do the Iron Man Triathalon too.

  2. reading about Fauja Singh appears like reading fiction. One can find solution to all physical ailments by running provided he is is not disabled.

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