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Volume 5, Issue 13  |  February 14, 2020


Take Five: Meet Diane Daruty, president/race director of Spirit Run

By AMY SENK

On your mark, get set, go – the 37th annual Spirit Run will take place Sunday, March 1, featuring competitive races for children and adults, walking options, a dog expo, kids’ activities and more. The events all take place near Fashion Island with the aim to raise money for youth causes, and it’s not too early to register, or begin training. I caught up with Diane Daruty, chairman of the board of Newport-Mesa Spirit Run, Inc. and president/race director, who saved the event a decade ago when its future was in question, to find out more.

Take Five Diane Daruty

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Diane Daruty

Diane Daruty

Q: The 37th annual Spirit Run will take place soon. How would you describe the event to someone who has never heard of it before?

A: Spirit Run is a running and expo event enjoyed by generations of families from Newport Beach and beyond. With 15 running and walking events, Spirit Run has something for every age and fitness level. Children age 1 to 3 enjoy the Toddler Trot, while men and women in their 80s race or walk the 5K. Several adults are expected to break four minutes in the Elite Mile this year, and many families will run or walk a mile together. In between races, participants and spectators enjoy the expo with food trucks, live music, and a spirit-themed costume contest. Kids love the rock climbing wall, bungee trampoline, mini skate park, and much more at Camp Newport, and adults shop, cool down with a massage, and learn fitness tips. You can even bring your dog or adopt one at the Dog Expo. In addition to all this fun, Spirit Run’s net proceeds benefit youth education and fitness, and other causes.

Q: The Spirit Run used to be a fundraiser that benefitted five local elementary schools, but back in 2010, it looked like it might fade away until you and some others resurrected it. Why are you so passionate about the Sprit Run?

A: I love running and exercise and want to see as many kids exercising as possible. Exercise obviously has physical benefits. Running also has mental and emotional advantages, and teaches discipline and perseverance. These gains typically transfer into other aspects of the children’s lives. Spirit Run provides kids the motivation to train and rewards and celebrates them. The funds Spirit Run raises for their education is icing on the cake.

Q: What are some of the changes you made back in 2010?

A: Newport-Mesa Spirit Run, Inc. (NMSRI), a 501 (c)(3), was founded in 2010 by parents of students in Newport-Mesa Unified (NMUSD), passionate about youth fitness and Spirit Run. NMSRI’s board members are unpaid volunteers who each year collectively donate a substantial sum towards event expenses and have been involved since the start. The board’s original mission was to continue Spirit Run, and to ensure all NMUSD schools had the opportunity to participate and share in its net proceeds and underprivileged students had the chance to be included. Accordingly, each year, NMSRI invites all NMUSD schools to participate in Spirit Run. Also, with the help of members of UCI’s Track Team, NMSRI has conducted free training for Spirit Run at several Costa Mesa elementary schools, and provided underprivileged students free entry and bus transportation to the event. Over the last nine years, NMSRI and Spirit Run have evolved. NMSRI added new running and walking events including adult mile races, a dog mile, and family events with discounted rates. In 2017, NMSRI introduced the Dash for Cash fundraiser to include schools outside NMUSD. Last year, NMSRI introduced its Couch to 5K evening program to train adults and kids for Spirit Run. In 2020, NMSRI launched a class through Newport Beach’s Recreation Department to train children at Mariners Park and introduced company team building to inspire local companies to bring teams to run or walk at Spirit Run. 

Q: How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working on this event?

A: My family has been my main priority since I retired in 2001 when my daughter was born. As of last fall, my husband and I are empty nesters and are traveling more. I also serve as a commissioner for the City of Newport Beach’s Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission. I hope to expand my service to our community and other non-profit causes. After this year’s event, I will work with NMSRI to possibly expand its City training classes to offer a fall class, and will explore avenues of growth for Spirit Run. And, of course, I remain an avid runner, averaging 50 miles or more per week.

Q: How long does it take to organize the Spirit Run, and what are some of the things on your to-do list that might surprise our readers?

A: Work on Spirit Run occurs 10 months a year. Of course, the workload is light six of those months, but full time or more the other four. Whether a to-do list item is surprising probably depends on how the person views Spirit Run. Those who see it as a school fundraiser might be surprised how much time is spent recruiting athletes and collaborating with running clubs, coaches, Southern California USATF, and other running industry members. They might also be surprised that NMSRI collaborates with other non-profits and charities to help one another’s causes. On the other hand, a significant percentage of Spirit Run’s participants aren’t affiliated or aware of Spirit Run’s beneficiaries. They likely wouldn’t expect all the behind the scenes work with schools, NMUSD and others connected with them. Check out all about Spirit Run at www.nmspiritrun.org.

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Amy Senk is a longtime resident of Corona del Mar and a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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