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Marathon Boy
November 12, 2011 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Running a marathon is a particularly arduous task, even for the most able-bodied athlete. But for a four-year old to run a marathon is extraordinary. Especially a four-year old Indian boy who, at the age of two, was sold by his mother to a street peddler for 800 rupees. Meet Budhia, a prodigious runner and product of the slums, who is taken in and raised by a relentless trainer named Biranchi Das. After Das pushes Budhia to run a 42-mile race (which he completes), governmental agencies intervene and attempt to remove the boy from the custody of Das. Local protests erupt, a man is murdered, and Budhia returns to the care of his mother. This is the story told by the documentary Marathon Boy. // trailer // review // interview with filmmaker
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (18 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. Amazing. I have to see this.

BTW, I think they meant 42 kilometers (roughly 26 miles).
posted by aturoff at 7:28 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was confused about that as well, but the production notes posted on the film's official website say 60 kilometers (42 miles).
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:31 AM on November 12, 2011


Wait, sorry, not 60k - the production notes (scroll down to read) say 65 kilometer race, which is a bit closer to 42 miles. I think that the reviewer probably just got it a little mixed up.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:36 AM on November 12, 2011


The Telegraph article says "42 miles (the length of a marathon)" - which is obviously incorrect. Since 42K is about the length of a marathon, I assumed that was the mistake. Yeah, I trust the film's production notes more. 65 kilometers is a little over 40 miles. Crazy.
posted by aturoff at 7:40 AM on November 12, 2011


26 miles is 42 miles when calculated in four-year old legs.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:45 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The film had focus for about 50% of it and then became a mish mash that dealt with human rights, lax standards of the law, criminal intrusion, murder, law suits, the rights of a bilogical mother and on and on. If one thing is clear to me: no kid that young should ever be allowed
to run that distance while bones are still forming.
posted by Postroad at 7:58 AM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Agreed though I was willing to wade through the confusion to figure out how it was going to turn out. It would be interesting to know how a kid had that physical capacity--he must have gigantic lungs, amazing air flow, something, that would allow him to do that. That he shouldn't have, of course, is the real story.
posted by etaoin at 8:13 AM on November 12, 2011


I saw part of this on tv week, and it's a strange documentary (especially when it seriously begins to lose focus) but interesting enough that I wrote it down to look up later. The strangest part is when some random person is interviewed for their opinion, and he declares that Budhia and his father should be hanged so that everyone can be done with them, the troublemakers. WHAT
posted by Xere at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2011


It would be interesting to know how a kid had that physical capacity--he must have gigantic lungs, amazing air flow, something, that would allow him to do that. That he shouldn't have, of course, is the real story.

Marathoning isn't about processing oxygen...it's run much slower than maximal uptake. The marathon is merely endurance - musculoskeletal performance.

In much the same way that women were seen as being unable to perform feats such as this, I imagine a child can take far more than we think is possible. Personally I believe that the work environments child labourers are subject to day after day in this world are much worse than the physical task of running a marathon.

I don't think this is as much of an issue surrounding physical health - the human body has limits but those limits are great. What is at stake is children wanting to do this. Nobody should be forced to do anything this difficult unless they want to. It's a difference of nothing less than enjoyment vs. torture.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:35 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've heard health officials talk about certain risks for young children who run. This article in the CBC website looks at a nine year-old boy.

Many Canadian marathons do limit participation to runners 18 years and older. Jamie Whynacht of Sport PEI thinks the Island marathon should do the same, as running such long distances can harm children."They can get themselves into issues of heat exhaustion. They really worry about stunting their growth or hurting their growth plates in the process of all the pounding it takes to do that distance," Whynacht said

And this Globe and Mail article from 2007 cites the American Academy of Pediatrics:

there was no compelling evidence suggesting that children should be banned from marathons, as long as they train properly and aren't being forced to take part.
posted by Fizz at 8:58 AM on November 12, 2011


Just found this article from the NYTimes which further explores the debate over whether or not there is any physical harm from a young child running a long distance such a marathon.
posted by Fizz at 9:01 AM on November 12, 2011


ugh, the trailer made me cry. I don't know if I could handle the whole movie. Poor kid.
posted by sweetkid at 10:15 AM on November 12, 2011


"I imagine a child can take far more than we think is possible."

Within a month of learning to walk, my toddler could toddle a mile and a half before he started to get tired. The he learned to run and he'd run as fast as possible for a whole mile at a time, while I walked at a brisk pace beside him. Now that he's 2 1/4, he can flat-out run for two solid miles before he starts having to walk in between running spurts. The problem is that now his legs are long enough that when he runs, I kind-of have to jog to keep up. And I can NOT jog two solid miles.

And every time I take him outside so he can run, and thereby run off some of this absurd energy, I think to myself, "Dammit, I'm just increasing his stamina again." His stamina, height, and speed are increasing WAY FASTER than mom's stamina is.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:38 AM on November 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's weird that the plan was to turn him into an Olympic marathoner. The kid is four. The timeframe from four to Olympic success is totally not gratifying. Also, running is one of those sports where precocity doesn't equal talent. Runners get really good in their 20s -- the current marathon world record holders male and female were 26 and 28, respectively, when they set those records, and marathon on the professional level is not about endurance so much as speed -- those guys are running 4:50 minute miles x 26.2 miles = totally different game that just getting over the distance. Running a single 4:50 mile is an impressive feat requiring adult-sized legs. It just struck me how basically nonsensical the original ambition for the kid was.
posted by half life at 12:26 PM on November 12, 2011


How the heck could they return the kid to the mother who sold him?!?
posted by easily confused at 1:04 PM on November 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Running key to human evolution

I suspect children are more capable of sustained running than we imagine.
posted by seanyboy at 1:07 PM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's weird that the plan was to turn him into an Olympic marathoner. The kid is four. The timeframe from four to Olympic success is totally not gratifying. Also, running is one of those sports where precocity doesn't equal talent. Runners get really good in their 20s -- the current marathon world record holders male and female were 26 and 28, respectively, when they set those records, and marathon on the professional level is not about endurance so much as speed -- those guys are running 4:50 minute miles x 26.2 miles = totally different game that just getting over the distance. Running a single 4:50 mile is an impressive feat requiring adult-sized legs. It just struck me how basically nonsensical the original ambition for the kid was.

Oh, no doubt. Let there not be any question that his 'coach' is an attention-seeking whore preying on this kid. Maybe the kid likes running. Maybe he doesn't. But, this won't get him to the Olympics.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:37 PM on November 12, 2011


Personally I believe that the work environments child labourers are subject to day after day in this world are much worse than the physical task of running a marathon.

This. But this documentary looks really interesting. I hope it doesn't stray as far as some say.

And as someone whose father started him running next to him in elementary school (sometimes people would slow down in their cars and yell abuses at him - but I loved running): that kid likes to run. And he probably likes running so much because he couldn't do so properly for so long with that gangrenous leg. Attention-seeking predatory whore coach or not.

I can't tell you how many kids I know got the opportunity to leave a worse place for one better because of something as simple as running. Maybe he won't end up in the Olympics (though I don't see why not), but he could at least get a scholarship to give him some chances in life he may not otherwise have.

Just let the kid run.

I don't know about giving him back to his mother though, but I can't judge because I don't know what kind of hell she was going through. I just hope he doesn't get (more?) f*cked up from all this and that in the end he's the one that benefits the most from it.
posted by tbonicus at 12:16 AM on November 13, 2011


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