‘We’ve got to fight for the future’: Thousands gather for 32nd Alaska Run for Women

Saturday’s run on the UAA campus, which focuses on raising funds and awareness for breast cancer and women’s health, included 3,700 runners and walkers with nearly 1,000 more participating virtually.

For more than a decade, Serenity Orth has watched as the Alaska Run For Women team she’s a part of has grown from around 20 women to nearly 300.

This year, she found out firsthand the power of the support and enthusiasm the team comprised of Alaska Airlines colleagues and friends provides.

Orth was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. And despite finding out earlier this week she’ll need chemotherapy to treat the cancer, she was at the starting line of Saturday’s run with other members of Alaska Airlines’ The Milk Run team.

“Not one single person here has a family member, friend or loved one, somebody that has not been touched by cancer in some way, shape or form,” Orth said. “This year for me it’s very personal. We’ve got to fight for the future. There are too many of us affected by this.”

The Alaska Run for Women, now in its 32nd year, continues to take up that fight, raising funds and awareness. Saturday’s run on the UAA campus included 3,700 runners and walkers with nearly 1,000 more participating virtually. In total, 377 breast cancer survivors participated in the Run, including 270 in person.

Orth has been involved on The Milk Run team for 13 years. It’s grown exponentially in recent years, spurred by team leader KC Hostetler, but has its roots in the famed hopscotch flight through Southeast.

“It was our flight attendant group,” said Tracey Laurion, who joined Orth in a group at the start. “We started it and kind of kept it going. I’ve been retired for two years but now it’s grown to nearly 300 people.”

[Reporting from the front lines of Stage 4 breast cancer]


There were at least 285 team members on Saturday, with nearly 200 of them in Anchorage. The group also represented 13 states and 18 communities in Alaska, including many of the small coastal communities along The Milk Run.

Orth said being with her colleagues, friends and cancer survivors on Saturday was uplifting. She even saw her surgeon at the Run.

“It’s been a journey and it’s going to continue to be one,” she said. “I’m just so grateful for my friends and family who have supported me.”

Among all of Anchorage’s runs and races, the Run for Women is best perhaps best known for its flair, with a proliferation of pink, decorated Porta Potties, unique fashions and clever team names like Ptarmigan Ptata.

Among those was Check Out These Tits, the team name for Women’s Care of Alaska, an OBGYN clinic at Alaska Regional Hospital. The team’s shirts featured a variety of pictures of tits — the tiny passerine birds. And despite the lighthearted pun, the team leader said the cause the Run for Women supports is very serious.

“We have a lot of patients we see on a regular basis and often we’re the ones that have to tell them they have breast cancer,” said Wendy Cruz, who is a doctor at the clinic. “It means a lot to us to be representing women and to be strong and supportive.”

The competitive 5-mile timed event was won by Anna Dalton, among the state’s most decorated runners. Dalton finished the race in a record time of 27 minutes, 24 seconds and avoided a wandering black bear sow that many runners further back in the pack encountered and were able to evade along the route.

Dalton, 34, has memories of the run going back nearly two decades.

“I think I was either starting or had just finished kindergarten,” she said. “I did it with my mom. It was the first running race where I think I ran the whole race. It’s definitely important to me and something I’ve done since I was a kid and has been a part of my race repertoire for awhile.”

While Dalton was crossing the finish line in Anchorage, more than 300 miles away, Meadow Riedel was completing her own Run for Women. Riedel, who lives in Fairbanks, was one of hundreds who participated virtually.

Nearly two years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram. After a follow-up ultrasound, doctors identified a relatively rare form called Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. The cancer acts like a spiderweb and it had spread to her lymph nodes, which necessitated surgery and radiation therapy. The cancer grows with hormones and while the treatment doesn’t involve chemotherapy, Riedel said the nature of the cancer meant she needed to have a hysterectomy and take hormone blockers.

She believes the early detection saved her life and said trying to make healthy choices since her diagnosis has helped her manage the side effects of treatment.


“I’m a big proponent of the regular mammograms and really advocating for early detection,” she said. “Cancer and breast cancer, if it’s caught early, your outcomes and your options are so much greater than if you catch it later.”

She has been able to participate in Casting For Recovery, a a therapeutic fly fishing retreat for survivors which is funded by the Run. She also works with the Breast Cancer Detection Center in Fairbanks, which has a mobile mammography van.

“Even though I live in Fairbanks, the Run really helps women across the state,” she said. “I’m just really appreciative of all the work that goes into it and all it supports.”

On Friday night, Riedel and a crew of friends and supporters headed to Harding Lake, 45 miles south of Fairbanks with plans to complete their Run for Women on Saturday with a five-miler around the lake.

Last year the race donated more than a quarter of a million dollars to groups of various focuses, ranging from research, early detection, treatment and recovery.

Among those groups are Breast Cancer Detection Center of Alaska, the Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, Providence Alaska Medical Center and Casting for Recovery. It also includes UAA Clinical Research, which is trying to advance forms immunotherapy to be a more effective in fighting cancer.


UAA professor Max Kullberg said the race has been supporting the research for around two decades and their current emphasis focuses on nanoparticle targeting that allows the immune system to recognize cancer cells, which are constantly evolving and trying to hide from the body.

“I think it’s the best approach for targeting new cells and we’re trying to take advantage of that,” Kullberg said.

While Kullberg was staffing a UAA research booth at the Run, his wife, daughter and mother were preparing to hit the course.

“The nice thing about being here as a researcher, sometimes in the lab you can get out of touch and forget about what you’re trying to do because you’re so removed,” he said. “Being out here and seeing the survivors and pink hats, it reminds you what you’re doing each day.”

Alaska Run For Women


Timed 5 Mile


1. Anna Dalton, Anchorage, 27:24; 2. Taylor Deal, Anchorage, 28:14; 3. Heather Arneson, Anchorage, 30:03; 4. Katherine Doyle, Anchorage, 30:43; 5. Elizabeth Page, Anchorage, 31:00; 6. Sam Longacre, Anchorage, 31:28; 7. Mandy Vincent-Lang, Anchorage, 31:36; 8. Megan Murphy, Anchorage, 32:07; 9. Kaelan Dickinson, Anchorage, 32:22; 10. Lia Slemons, Anchorage, 32:27.

Full results here

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.