Newport Mesa Spirit Run returns in March for 40th anniversary

Kids run across the starting line for the Youth 5K.
Kids run across the starting line for the Youth 5K, one of a number of races included in the Newport Mesa Spirit Run, which returns on March 17.
(Joe Katchka / Katchmoments Photography)

As with many events of its size, the Newport Mesa Spirit Run came from humble beginnings. It started in 1983 as a fundraiser for the three elementary schools in Corona del Mar and grew with each successive year. The schools’ parent-teacher associations eventually handed off the reins to race director Diane Daruty, who in 2010 established the nonprofit that now runs the annual event.

“I retired, but I was really into running. I’m a marathoner and I wanted to start a program to train the kids at my kids’ schools for the OC Kids Marathon, so I told their principal, ‘Will you let me start this program if I chair for the Spirit Run?’ and I grew to really love it because I love running,” Daruty said. “The event is fabulous because it really celebrates kids running. It’s not a single dash. It’s for kids who are casual and for kids who are serious runners.”

Talia Zwick waves to the camera as she participates in the Toddler Trot in 2023.
(Joe Katchka / Katchmoments Photography)

The event is split into a number of different races geared for children and adults. The latter can run in a 5K, join the dog mile or run with their families in the family mile. Children can participate in a 5K of their own or join in the mile run-walks for specific age groups. There’s even a “toddler trot” in a small, fenced area.

This year’s theme is “Shamrock and Roll,” as a tip of the hat to the fact that the run is taking place on March 17 at Fashion Island.

Funds raised will benefit schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards, youth sports programs, CASA of Orange County and ALS Hope for Peggy Fort.

Daruty said the event will include a giveaway of decorative eyewear, headpieces and event merchandise that sport clover-themed designs. They’ll also be holding a St. Patrick’s Day costume contest. Muldoon’s Irish Pub will be giving out certificates for free appetizers and adults will be able to enjoy 40-cent beers at Malarky’s Irish Pub in honor of the race’s 40th anniversary.

In the male-dog mile last year, runner Brian Duff and his dog Axl.
In the male-dog mile last year, runner Brian Duff and his dog, Axl, came in first at a time of 4 minutes and 17 seconds. This race, among others, will be returning as part of the Newport Mesa Spirit Run on March 17.
(Joe Katchka / Katchmoments Photography)

“We have a hardcore, solid group of people that love the Spirit Run. We have generations of people who have run. We’ve got grandmas running with their sons who are now running with their children. It’s a very local event and people take pride in their community,” Daruty said.

“But then you have people who just love running,” continued Daruty, noting the event has drawn runners come from as far away as Canada .

“We have great support from our local sponsors too like Fashion Island and Fletcher Jones Motorcars. But the biggest thing is we want people to come out and have fun. We always want to emphasize our motto on our event homepage, ‘Event for everyone, benefiting kids.’ That means we have a toddler track and 80-year-olds that run. You can do a mile, a 5K, both, walk one and walk another one with a dog. You can do it alone. You can do it with your family. There’s no excuses. There is something for everyone to do.”

About 300 people had signed up as of Wednesday, and organizers will be taking registrations up to and on the day of March 17. To register, visit