Once a year on a Saturday in June, women and girls from across Alaska take over the Anchorage Football Stadium, ready to paint the town pink.
They wear pink tutus, boas, tank tops, socks, shorts, hair — pink because that’s the color associated with breast cancer, and the Alaska Run for Women is both a women’s-only footrace and a fundraiser for breast cancer-related charities.
As they cross the finish line after completing either the five-mile or one-mile run, many raise their arms in triumph or grasp hands with those finishing at the same time. The ones wearing pink hats given to breast cancer survivors receive a pink carnation at the finish line.
The day pulses with joy tinged by sadness. Many runners wear hand-written signs on the backs of their T-shirts bearing the names of loved ones lost to or suffering from breast cancer: “Mom,” “Julie,” “Susan,” “My Auntie,” “Me.”
There is crying at the Alaska Run for Women. There is also exhilaration and athleticism among the thousands who participate each year.
Rooted in revolt, the race began in 1993 as a protest against an established all-woman’s footrace that angered runners that summer by raising entry fees while reducing race amenities.
Race founder Terri Pauls and others decided the race would spotlight Alaska runners and raise money for a cause that benefitted women.
Race organizers eliminated entry fees and instead asked runners to make a donation, which over the years has averaged $25. In its first 25 years the event raised more than $4 million and provided hundreds of free mammograms.
The first race attracted 758 runners and created so much energy and enthusiasm that the old race went out of business after 1993. In the years since, the Alaska Run for Women has become one of Alaska’s biggest footraces, and certainly its pinkest.
— Beth Bragg