Kendrapara: Barely 10 years old, the daughter of a daily wage labourer in Tarando village of this district has an incredible card up her sleeve – she can run distances of 40-45 km in a single sprint.
Lizarani Behera, daughter of Ekadashi and Shantilata Behera, says she dreams of becoming a national-level sprinter. Her dreams are fleet-footed; her family’s poverty, however, is the chain around her legs.
Liza says she can run up to 45 km (a full-length marathon) within six hours. The only break she takes is after the first 20 km – a pattern followed by most marathoners the world over.
A student of Class V at Tarando Lower Basic School, Liza began taking an active interest in running a little over 18 months ago, according to her father.
“I began to notice that Liza ran a lot. She would leave home for school in a gallop, and would reach in less than two minutes. Even when we would send her out on errands, she would run like the wind and would return in no time. She always runs, never walks,” says Ekadashi, Liza’s father.
“Realizing that my daughter was fleet-footed, I encouraged her to continue running every day. For the last several months, she has been practising long runs on the Cuttack-Chandbali road. Initially when she started, she used to cover a distance of 15 km. With time, she has developed her speed and stamina and is able to cover longer distances,” Ekadashi adds.
Liza is an early riser. “She wakes up at about 3.30 am and goes on long runs. In the past, she would often run from Kendrapara to Biraja temple and Sarala temple. Sometimes she would also run all the way up to Chandikhole and back, thus covering a distance of 45 km. This used to take her around five hours,” says Shantilata, her mother.
“I dream of becoming a national-level sprinter like PT Usha. Orissa’s sprinters Dutee Chand and Srabani Nanda are my inspiration. But I don’t know how far I will be able to fulfil my goal of becoming a national-level sprinter. I want to win accolades from all quarters and I want to make my home district as well as my state and country proud.
However, poverty is a major stumbling block for me,” says the 10-year-old.
Ekadashi earns Rs 300 per day and with this meagre amount he has to feed his family of six, including four children.
Liza was felicitated by several organizations for her ability to run long distances. She has been felicitated by Kendrapara District Freedom Fighters’ Association, Maa Biraja Mukti Mandap Parisad, Biju Patnaik Centenary Birthday Marathon at Kendrapara, and Kendrapara Credit Co-operative Society Limited for emerging as a promising sprinter.
Liza’s father says with his meagre income it is not possible for him to buy his daughter running shoes and provide her the diet that she needs to develop her talent.
“We approached the district collector several times seeking a helping hand for our daughter but so far nothing has happened. Uncertainty looms over her fate,” says a downcast Ekadashi.
When contacted, district collector Muralidhar Mallik said the matter has come to his notice and added that he had asked the district sports officer to take steps for admitting Liza at a sports hostel. However, she was not deemed fit to join the sports hostel as her height and weight and were not up to the mark.
Mallik said the district administration will look into the matter and ensure that Liza is given the help she needs. PNN