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'Nella': From the Streets of LA to the Berlin Marathon

Antonella 'Nella' Chispe: From the Streets of LA to the Berlin Marathon, A Journey of Passion and Giving Back

By Jonathan Andrade
Images by @noahklabin

Antonella Chispe sent out the proverbial Bat signal.

“Give your old running clothes a second chance,” she posted on Instagram Oct 17.

It was a call to action for her fellow runners. Chispe is collecting lightly used running clothes and gear to donate to the Students Run LA organization, a non-profit that helps local high school and middle school students become marathoners.

A month removed from crossing the finish line at the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 24, Chispe—a soft-spoken ultra-marathoner who lets her actions do the talking—finally has the free time to do something she’s planned to do for years: Give back to the program that provided her life’s passion.

“SRLA gave me something special,” she said or running. “I didn’t have the gear that I would have wanted to have when I started running so I want to give back to the students now who may need more stuff.”

SRLA turned a young, wiry Chispe into an avid runner who would complete her first LA Marathon at age 14. Since then, she’s continued to level up as an endurance athlete, completing 22 marathons and becoming an ultra-marathoner with aspirations of completing her first 100-miler in 2024.

Who knows where Chispe would be if it weren’t for SRLA.

She likely wouldn’t have even dreamed of qualifying for the historic Boston Marathon, much less earning a finishers medal like she did in 2022. Her legs certainly wouldn’t have been fit enough to carry her 50 miles throughout the beautiful Santa Catalina Island landscape like she successfully did earlier this year. And she definitely wouldn’t have the potent online presence she’s garnered as a runner to help young SRLA athletes in the middle of taking their first steps on a road Chispe began travelling long ago.

Berlin was Chispe’s most recent bucket list race. Mission accomplished.

It wasn’t her fastest race, but Chispe—the daughter of Ecuadorian parents who hail from the port city of Guayaquil—said the German experience was unforgettable. She even found an Ecuadorian restaurant where she was able to enjoy a traditional “Seco De Pollo” with a mandatory side of “maduros” to power her to her second world major medal.

“It kind of made me feel like I had my parents and family there,” Chispe said, noting the restaurant owners moved from Ecuador and settled in Berlin decades ago. “They were so welcoming. It was heart-warming.”

She even met another fellow countryman after the race. The stranger let Chispe borrow their Ecuadorian flag to pose by the finish line.

Once the post-race dust had settled, it was back to the planning phase for Chispe, who is mostly known as “Nella” in the running community.

The training and build-up to any race day can be brutal and taxing on runners, both physically and mentally. Once the hardware is secured, the post-race blues often come creeping in like a slow-moving fog.

Chispe said she used to feel depressed after big races. All the work was done and that circled date on the calendar came and went.

But gone are those days of wallowing in the unknown. A seasoned veteran of the sport, Chispe chooses to keep looking ahead, savoring weekends that aren’t consumed by hours of long runs and recovery.

“I kind of feel happy that training is over,” she said. “I like to spend more time with family and friends who don’t run. I catch up with those people and have fun.”

Most recently she attended the Small Shop Soiree in Whittier, Calif., where she met some of the influencers she follows online, like Karen Sarahi Gonzalez, founder of Lybre Lashes, and Josh Leyva, the founder of Salud Hydration.

“I walked around and shopped and didn’t worry about having to go train,” she said.

Years of training and racing have molded Chispe. She’s a road and trail warrior with a tireless work ethic during her training cycle, and happy-go-lucky run club teammate out of training.

More importantly, she’s learned to nurture her mental health. Even when she inevitably slips back into training mode, she’s not strict on herself.

“I accept that I don’t need to run every day,” Chispe said. “If I don’t feel like doing a speed workout, I just let it go. The best way to explain it is to be kind to yourself.”

Chispe takes it all in stride. While she’s eyeing her first 100-miler, she’s equally excited to partake in the local Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning.

Never far removed from the running scene, Chispe is already back and running. She participated in the local Cafe Jam Run Club 5K on Oct. 15 and she can usually be found in the Wednesday night crowd at Tempo Training Run Club meetups with fellow Fractel ambassador Jess Mena.

Running is Chispe’s happy place. Whether it’s on the road or up a trail, one can expect to find Nella in her Hokas, breaking a sweat and grinning from ear to ear with her larger-than-life smile.

She’s come a long way since her days idolizing US Women’s soccer star Mia Hamm. Nowadays, other runners look up to Chispe as a role model, often asking her what they can do to one day be like Nella.

The humble and reserved Chispe still calls those encounters “awkward,” but she’s always willing to answer questions if it means she can help a fellow runner step out of their comfort zone.

“I’m flattered at the thought of other people looking up to me,” she said. “It makes happy to know if I helped someone take that leap they feared to achieve their goals.”


You can follow Nella on IG here


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