Gopika Nandu has donned many hats in sports. Her achievements speak volume of her talent. A brown belt in karate, with several medals in school-level sports meet, Nandu’s biggest achievement is being the youngest female super randonneur in India.
Hailing from Trivandrum, Nandu’s passion for sports was unflinching. Despite her parents’ reluctance, her desire to do something challenging led her to join Trivandrum Runners Club after reading an article on long-distance running. Since then there has been no looking back for Nandu.
Her maiden appearance in a marathon came during the Trivandrum Marathon in 2014 where she finished the 10 KM run in one hour and fifteen minutes. Later her best in 10 K marathon came about in 50 minutes.
It was during her marathon days, she came to know about Randonneuring and Ironman races from the members of the runners club. Randonneuring is long-distance, unsupported, non-competitive cycling within prescribed time limits. The events—called brevets—are 200km (13.5-hour time cut-off ), 300km (20 hours), 400km (27 hours), 600km (40 hours), and 1000km (75 hours). Nandu decided to train for Randonneuring and also registered for an Ironman event. She bought a Scott Contessa Speedster 45 cycle and began joining the Trivandrum Bikers Club on their morning rides.
Nandu participated in her first brevet a 200-km bicycle ride held in the city in 2017 organised by the Club, and earned the title of Randonneuer. She then quit her job and went on her pursuit to become a super randonneur for which needed to complete a series of rides. She rode the 600-km brevet from Kochi-Palakkad-Attingal without any rest while tackling flat tyres. It was sheer grit and perseverance that made her complete the ride despite being sick and sleep-deprived.
The 24-year-old is one of the very few long-distance cyclists from Trivandrum. Before each brevet event, Nandu researches on the route to check for possible places to rest or stop to eat. The 400-km and 600-km rides had her riding late into the night. In India, there’s not much recognition for a randonneur. She doesn’t get a hero’s welcome after reaching the finish line. It’s only the self-satisfaction and sense of attaining tough goals that keep her motivated. She is now preparing for the World Ironman event to be held in Kazakhstan this year.