Spirit Run offers entertainment for participants and spectators

The 40th Annual Spirit Run will take place Sunday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, at Fashion Island. With 12 running and walking events for every age and even your pooch, Spirit Run has much to offer registrants. Their friends and family members, and anyone looking for a great start to St. Patrick’s Day, are also welcome to attend to watch the races and enjoy the expo.

Elite Runners at Spirit Run

Take your place at the finish line to watch elite athletes, including doggies. Spirit Run is honored to welcome them to compete in the Elite Mile, 5k and Dog Mile.

Find your spot by 8:15 a.m. to cheer for the elite milers as they battle to finish under 4 minutes. The ladies won’t be far behind. Indeed, 2022’s first-place female finished in 4 minutes, 27 seconds, passing a male competitor just before the finish line!

Around 8:43 a.m., the 5k competitors will begin crossing the finish line. Make sure to return by 9:04 a.m. to witness the first human/canine duo cross.

This elite field of athletes, and $5,100 cash purse, would not be possible without Spirit Run’s Premium, Gold and Bronze Elite Sponsors – the Hyman Foundation, Greg and Diana Keyes, and Dave Kobrine, respectively.

Featured Elite Athletes

George Gleason is favored to win the Elite Mile. Gleason competed for the UCLA Bruins in Cross Country and Track as an undergraduate and thereafter for the USC Trojans while pursuing a Masters in Project Management. He previously completed a mile in 3 minutes 52 seconds and certainly has the ability to break the 4-minute mark at Spirit Run.

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Photos by Joe Katchka, Katchmoments Photography

George Gleason in Spirit Run 2022

Spirit Run has a special place in Gleason’s heart and his running career. “When I was 10 years old, I competed in Spirit Run on a whim. I had never run a race before and my dad encouraged me to hop in the youth race,” Gleason explained. “I finished with a sub-6-minute mile. Since then, I was hooked on the thrill of running fast and competing against others.”

Gleason considers Spirit Run special for other reasons. “Spirit Run is a unique race as a road mile with a nice descent. These types of races seem to be rare these days and offer the potential for a sneaky personal best in the mile! I also want to reunite with collegiate teammates and friends and to battle it out with them.” As to goals, his answer was simple, “I want to win the Elite Mile and beat my time from Spirit Run 2022.”

Henry Mcluckie, who is signed with Adidas, will give Gleason a run for his money. Mcluckie represented Great Britain in cross country and track in several European championships, and recently joined an elite running team in San Diego. “I heard great things about Spirit Run from my teammates. I’m looking forward to racing hard and my goal is to break 4 minutes in the Elite Mile and win.” Perhaps the lucky leprechauns will bless Mcluckie.

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Carina Viljoen crosses the finish line in Spirit Run 2023

It will be neck and neck for Spirit Run’s female Elite Mile competitors. Carina Viljoen, the 2023 Elite Mile Female Champion, is returning to defend her title. An 11-time South African National Champion and a South African professional competitor for ASICS Mammoth Track Club, this will be her third year competing at Spirit Run. Viljoen looks forward to racing. “This course sets you up so well to push beyond barriers. It draws in good competition to race against with an exciting prize purse and is just an exciting atmosphere all around to make for a fun day! My goal is to break 4:30 in the mile, then use that confidence to keep doing it as the season progresses!”

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Taryn Rawlings passes a male at the finish line in Spirit Run 2022

In 2022, Viljoen was runner up to Taryn Rawlings who missed 2023, but is returning this year. Rawlings has fond memories of winning the Elite Mile and placing second woman in the 5k afterwards. “I had such a great experience and am so excited to come back this year!” Rawlings revels in interacting with runners in the community but is also determined. “My goal is to race hard and push myself to break the 4:30 minute barrier in the mile.”

Hanna Hermansson, a nine-time Swedish National Champion and two-time European championship finalist, is another worthy competitor. In fact, the personal records in the mile for these fierce ladies is close. Rawlings’ is 4 minutes 24 seconds, Hermansson’s is 4 minutes 28 seconds and Viljoen’s is 4 minutes 29 seconds. It will be a nail biter at the finish line.

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Brian Duff and Axl approaching the finish line in the Dog Mile

Brian Duff would be competitive in the Elite Mile. However, rather than race to win the green, he prefers to compete with his BFF canine in the Dog Mile. This duo, former Dog Mile World Record holders and three-time Spirit Run Dog Mile champions, are Spirit Run enthusiasts. “The Spirit Run has become a mainstay on my racing calendar, because of the fast course, great atmosphere, and being an overall well-run event,” Duff shared. “Axl and I eagerly look forward to defending our title, lowering the course record, and enjoying the fun and good times that come with this awesome event!”


Spirit Run hosts a lively expo for participants and spectators to enjoy before and after races.

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Spirit Run’s Sponsors

Spirit Run could not continue without the generous support of its sponsors, some who host expo booths. The Exchange Club of Newport Harbor will provide information on club membership and activities, including the 15th Annual Field of Honor at Castaways Park from May 20-27. Booth visitors may dedicate flags to fly at the event in honor of military servicemen or women, veterans, or first responders. Those shopping for a new vehicle may check out Fletcher Jones Motor Cars’ display cars. Parents can learn about Starnes Orthodontics’ practice while the kids grab some giveaways. Spirit Run sponsors are listed at www.newportspiritrun.org/sponsors.

Kids and Families

Lots of fun is in store for kids at the expo. New this year is the Bumper Car Attraction, and the Rock-Climbing Wall is returning. Parents can map out their children’s summer plans at Camp Newport’s booth. While the kids are posing in the photo booth, Camp Newport representatives will provide parents with details on the extensive range of summer camps. Summer camp instructors will host activities including a surf simulator, face and arm painting, games, bracelet making, coloring, LEGO play® and more. Families considering private education may meet representatives from Waldorf School and Pacific Academy. They may also learn about library programs from the Newport Beach Public Library staff.

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Youngsters climbing the popular rock wall

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Face painting for the kids

Health and Fitness

Local fitness facilities and health experts will be happy to meet adults. American Institute of Massage Therapy will offer a free massage. Orange Theory Fitness will educate on their science-backed, technology-tracked workouts and offer the chance to win 10 classes. Align Body Work and Yoga will provide information on therapy sessions and yoga classes; and Priestly Chiropractic and Voitenko Wellness and Chiropractic will share their healing services.

Student Performances

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CdM Drumline performing

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Isadora Salekfard singing the National Anthem

Students will perform on the racecourses and in the expo. Raquel Maya and Isadora Salekfard will sing the National Anthem before races. Estancia High Cheer will perform a routine to pump up participants before they race, and cheer for them as they run and walk. Competitors will also enjoy running to the beat of the Corona del Mar Drumline. Everyone will savor the sounds of the Corona del Mar Jazz Band in the expo.

St. Patrick’s Giveaways and Costume Contest

Registrants may claim free, St. Paddy’s-themed decorative eyeglasses and headpieces when they pick up their race numbers. Adult race numbers will display stickers from Muldoon’s and Malarky’s for a free appetizer and .40 beer, respectively. Restrictions apply on these giveaways.

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Parks, Beaches, and Recreation commissioners Keira Kirby and Heather Ignatin, 2023 Costume Contest judges, who will be returning along with Commissioner David Granoff and former Commissioner Laird Hayes to judge in 2024

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Costume competitors enjoying the wearing o’ the green

Registrants may don their free Irish swag in the St. Patrick’s-themed costume contest. They may compete individually, with a group, their families, or even with their dogs! Movie tickets, Malarky’s Irish Pub merchandise and more will be awarded in various prize divisions. For details about these contest divisions, prizes and giveaways, visit www.newportspiritrun.org/st-paddys-features.

Food, Beverages and More

Water, fruit and a clover leaf finisher medal will be available for participants after crossing the finish line. Breakfast burritos, sandwiches, coffee and beverages, and more are for sale at Alexa’s Food Truck. Regal Cinema is donating popcorn to everyone.

Awards Presentations

The top three males and females overall in Spirit Run’s races will be recognized in the expo during three separate awards ceremonies. The Youth 5k Awards are scheduled for 8:30 a.m., the Adult Awards, 9:30 a.m. and the Youth Mile Awards, 10:30 a.m. Steve Scott, Olympian and World Record holder for completing the most sub-4-minute miles, will distribute the prizes.

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Carina Viljoen poses with Steve Scott at the 2023 Spirit Run Adult Awards presentation

Spirit Run is offering a $5,100 cash prize purse in the adult races and non-cash prizes in the Dog Mile and youth races. Visit www.newportspiritrun.org/awards-results-1 for details about winning prizes.


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