After four-and-half-year-old marathon boy Budhia Singh entered Limca Book of Records for running 65 km without any break in just seven hours and two minutes on May 2 this year, there are several kids in the state chasing Budhia'sfootprints.
A few of them have already shot into limelight as successful long-distance runners and they claim they could win Olympic medals and bring laurels to their country and state. Many more are there who are aspiring to achieve similar feats.
A 10-year-old Vanavasi girl from a remote village in Orissa'sSundargarh district ran 72 km in eight hours, with a break for five minutes after crossing 65 km at a stretch.
The girl Anastasia Barla'starget was to cover 105 km and she had commenced the marathon run from Sundargarh stadium. She had come into the limelight on July 8 this year after running 60 km in five hours and 45 minutes from Panchara village to Rambahal village in Sundargarh district.
Yet another kid from Orissa?Mrutyunjaya Mandal alias Aakash?fainted 11 km short of his 80-km target in Mumbai recently. Hailing from southern Orissa city of Berhampur, Mrutyunjaya could well claim a record that surpassed the much-publicised Budhia Singh'srecord.
Another wonder kid Dillip Rana from Pipli in Puri district covered 90 km from Pipli to Puri via Konark during his practice session. The 12-year-old Rana'scoach Shaikh Zakir claims the child has exceptional stamina. The class-VIIIth student has sought permission to run 100 km at a stretch to set a record for himself.
Apart from Budhia and the other four kids, nearly a dozen other inspired kids are undertaking rigorous practice sessions to shape their future as marathon runners.
However, the Orissa government is not enthused at this rare display of physical stamina by these kids. It feels the children are being made to run beyond their physical strength and may end up as burnout cases. Besides, they may suffer from diseases like arthritis, liver and lung problems.
Soon after Budhia's65-km run, the Child Welfare Council (CWC), a statutory body functioning under the state women and child welfare ministry, imposed restrictions on long-distance runs by children. The CWC'sdecision was challenged in the Orissa High Court by Biranchi Das, Budhia'scoach and foster father. The court has heard the two sides and reserved its judgment.
Despite the restrictions, the 10-year-old Anastasia on Gandhi Jayanti Day embarked upon a 105-km run from Sundargarh. Although the girl had announced her running schedule a week before, no one from the government agencies stepped in to prevent her from the strenuous exercise. The girl, after 65 km, took a pause and finally the authorities relented and gave permission for her dream run of 100 km after covering 72 km. However Dilip Rana of Pipili is unlikely to get the permission for 100-km run.
Marathon race means a 42-km run. But the wonder kids in Orissa audaciously set targets to run much beyond that?sometimes 100 km and at times more. Anastasia'srun was originally scheduled to be 105 km.
Biranchi Das, Budhia'scoach, has even declared his pupil'swishes to run nearly 400-km from Bhubaneswar to Kolkota at a stretch.
One thing is common to all the aspiring marathon kids of Orissa. They all hail from rustic and wretched background. Their parents are poor and do not enough means to support athletic exploits of the children.
Budhia was born in a slum of Bhubaneswar. Unable to feed him and three of her other children, Budhia'smother had sold him to a street vendor for a meagre Rs 800. However, fortunately, he was bought back by Biranchi and groomed under his tutelage.
Dilip Rana happens to be a son of a daily-wage earner. Anastasia and Akash Mandal belong to lower-middle rustic family backgrounds.
Sports-lovers in the state want to see these children prosper as the world-class runners and bring laurels to the country. They demand government and private sponsors to come forward and support the child ?prodigies? to help them realise their dreams.
Music companies in the state are leaving no stone unturned to cash in on Budhia'ssuccess. They have come out with audio-video cassettes depicting the child prodigy'sexploits. Shots like Budhia running on the highways and rugged roads, scaling hills and practising judo with other children have found place in the video albums.
?Budhia has become a household name in Orissa. Our cassette Budhia-re-Budhia was an instant hit. We got good return of our money,? said music producer Rajesh Kumar Mohanty.
A popularity contest named Priya Odiya (popular Oriya) organised by a local TV channel recently saw Budhia as a runner-up in terms of popularity next to State Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
With Budhia'sand other tiny runners? popularity skyrocketing in the state, dozens of tiny tots are aspiring to follow their ideals and become famous in the process.
An eight-class student from Bhubaneswar Prasanna Pradhan wants to be trained by Biranchi, Bhudhia'scoach, and Prasanna'smother Lalita says, she has no option other than taking his son for training.
Like Prasanna dozens fascinated kids want their dream too come true.