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Spirit Run Elite Milers go the distance…and have fun

Elite Mile start line

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Photos courtesy of Spirit Run

Elite Mile start line

Many Newport Beach residents who grew up with Spirit Run, or whose children did, think of it as simply a fundraiser for local schools. For several Spirit Run participants, from near and far, it’s so much more.

Spirit Run began in 1983 with an Adult 5k and a single youth race. Since then, it added a 10k, 15k, Youth 5k, and six separate youth mile races. In 2016, Spirit Run introduced Adult Mile races including the Elite Mile.

The Elite Mile is open to men who can finish a mile faster than 4 minutes, 15 seconds, and women who can finish faster than 4 minutes, 50 seconds. It takes place on a fast, point to point course that travels on a slight decline. Its first year drew about a dozen local elite runners.

Now in the Elite Mile’s third year, Spirit Run is expecting elites from throughout California and beyond. Several competed in Spirit Run 2017 and couldn’t wait to return. Others were attracted by the fast course and great competition; the perfect combination to run a fast time, maybe even set a personal record. Undoubtedly, the $3,800 cash purse also helped.

Reid Buchanan

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Reid Buchanan took first place in Spirit Run’s Elite Mile and 5k in 2017

Reid Buchanan, winner of Spirit Run’s Elite Mile and 5k in 2017, is excited to return. Buchanan, a Kansas native, attended the University of Portland where in 2016 he was First Team NCAA All American and finished 5th in the 10,000 meters. Currently, he trains with Andrew Kastor as a member of Mammoth Track Club. Buchanan recently became the 513th American to break 4 minutes in the mile on the track.

“I had the Newport Spirit Run on my calendar the day after I competed in it last year,” Buchanan said. “I love competing in local races and especially ones where the race coordinators are competent in putting on a top-notch event.”

Buchanan admits the cash purse is a draw, but not the only one. “With an increase in prize money, there has been an increase in competition and this has me excited to surely have the opportunity to set a new course record,” Buchanan explained. “No matter the outcome, I know this will be another great day in Newport Beach.” 

Natasha LaBeaud



Natasha LeBeaud Anzures has her eyes set on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Kansas seems nearby compared to another Elite Miler’s hometown. Canadian Natasha LaBeaud Anzures was ranked second in the 10k and third in the 5k for Canada in 2014.

“I have had the privilege to race in countries around the world with great competition. I have my eyes set on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games for the 10,000 meters and marathon,” LaBeaud stated.

Currently, LaBeaud lives in San Diego and is happy to add Spirit Run to her world tour. “I am looking forward to this year’s Spirit Run because of the great competition and the chance for me to test my wheels at a shorter distance.”

Sarah Attar

Sarah Attar competed in the London 2012 Olympics as one of the first-ever female Olympians from Saudia Arabia

But Sarah Attar has LaBeaud beat, at least in terms of competing for the most distant country.

“It was along the (Southern California) coastline, I logged many miles leading to my historic run in the London 2012 Olympics as one of Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female Olympians,” Attar explained. “(Spirit Run) is very important to my speed development working towards my goal of qualifying in the marathon for Tokyo 2020, and representing Saudi Arabia for a third time in the Olympics.”Ayla Granados


Ayla Granados is a favorite to take first this year in the women’s Elite Mile

Of course, most competitors are from California. Ayla Granados, last year’s second female in the Elite Mile, is a favorite to take first this year. She competes for Strava Track Club in the Bay Area. Granados shared why she’s making the trip for Spirit Run.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the Spirit Mile for a second year in a row,” Granados said. “Everything about it was so inviting and fun from the pancake breakfast, the prizes, the truly awesome crowd, and the beautiful location. It was a huge reminder of why I love this sport so much.”

Her primary motivation, however, is the challenge of winning. “What I’m looking forward to about this race the most is putting all else aside and just racing entirely to win,” Granados continued. “Placing runner-up last year, and the generous prize purse are huge motivators going into this year’s race. The field of women is perfectly stacked where I know I have the chance to win, but I’m going to have to leave it all out there and have to fight to the very end to do so.”

Shelby Buckley

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Shelby Buckley, a CdM graduate, won the 10k in the 2017 Spirit Run

Newport Beach’s Shelby Buckley won the 10k in 2017 and is likely to win again in 2018. Buckley, a 2008 Corona del Mar High graduate, was a standout on the cross country and track team. She was the only female athlete in Orange County history to place top five at the State Cross Country meet over four consecutive seasons. Other accolades included OC Register Athlete of the Year, 2004 CIF State cross country individual champion, member of the national champion 4 x 1600 meter relay, member of the winning 4 x 1-mile relay team at the Nike Outdoor Nationals and third at the 2007 State Meet in the 1600 meters. Buckley went on to run for University of California, Los Angeles and then University of Southern California.

Currently, Buckley is training to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. She looks forward to Spirit Run’s training benefits and more.

“I’m very excited USA Track & Field Southern California chose the Spirit Run for the Mile and 10k Championships this year. Bringing these championships to Newport is a great way to build excitement for the sport,” Buckley stated. “It’s also such a treat to be able to support the local schools and our community every year.”

These elites are only a handful of the elites competing at this year’s Spirit Run. Visit to view profiles of more than a dozen more. Keep checking back as more profiles are added leading up until Sunday’s race.

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