Hometown fundraiser attracts competitors from throughout Southern California and beyond

Most Newport Beach natives and long-time residents know Spirit Run as a school fundraiser and community event. Many have fond memories of cheering for their children as they raced the mile and visiting with neighbors at the expo. But who were the people they didn’t recognize? Who were those kids in green who flew past them in the 10K?

Roughly half of Spirit Run registrants live outside the Newport-Mesa area. This year Strava Track Club, an elite running team, is traveling from Northern California to compete. Equalizers, the team in green based in Tustin, always has more than 100 children and many adults at the event. Why Spirit Run, a Newport-Mesa school fundraiser? That’s simple, the prizes.

team in green

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Equalizers, the team in green at the start line

Spirit Run arguably has the most impressive prizes of any race around. This year, they will be better than ever, including a $2,600 cash purse in the Elite and Sub Elite Mile. At most races, the cash purse is won by a handful of elite runners. At Spirit Run, less than half of the purse is offered to elite competitors. The majority is available for 42 men and women in seven age groups from age20 to 89. Serious, non-elite runners have a real chance to win.

Spirit Run also offers more than 250 non-cash prizes for ages 4 to 89. The most popular are gift cards for food and dining. Spirit Run is offering 150 of its most coveted food prize – free pizza every month for a year at Blaze Pizza, Fashion Island. New prizes include the Yard House “Burger & Brew” for 50 adults to win in the Open Mile, and lunch or dinner at Lazy Dog Café for 12 Dog Mile participants. The youngest children enjoy Baking Betty’s cookies. Other prizes include Spa Gregorie’s massage certificates and $50 gift cards from Dick’s Sporting Goods and Asics.

During Spirit Run, there are multiple races and participants may compete to win in as many as they’d like. For years, Olympic Silver Medalist, Julie Ertel, has competed in the 10K and 5K to win prizes.

“I love all the prizes, that is what motivates me,” Julie said. “I’ve done a couple of Spa Gregorie’s massage days with friends and my family heads to Blaze Pizza every month.” This year Julie will add the Sub Elite or Open Mile for the chance to win cash or a Yard House “Burger & Brew.”

According to Diane Daruty, Spirit Run’s race director, not everyone is fond of the prizes. “With 13 consecutive racing events over a four-hour period, it’s very challenging for our timing company to finalize results and determine prize winners at the event,” Daruty explained. “They often question why Spirit Run can’t have fewer prizes like the other events.”

But Spirit Run is different than other events and the prizes have become part of its lure. As a nonprofit dedicated to fitness, it is committed to celebrating its athletes, particularly children, and awarding them for their hard work. Moreover, the prizes allow more sponsors to be part of the event. These sponsors benefit Spirit Run by donating prizes and promoting the event to their customers. Most importantly, the participants love the prizes.

Dan Deuel, who competes in two or three races each year sums it up best: “It’s kind of like going to an Easter egg hunt where everyone finds something,” Duel said. “At the end of the event the question is not if you received booty, but how much!”

For more information, and to register for Spirit Run, visit www.nmspiritrun.org.