Thousands turn course pink during Alaska Run for Women

The 25th annual Alaska Run for Women produced a shocking result Saturday.

Winner Kikkan Randall wasn't wearing pink.

Pink is the signature color for the race, which raises money for the fight against breast cancer, and it's the signature color for Randall, a four-time Olympic skier from Anchorage known for her pink hair and pink wardrobe.

Thousands of other women and girls were decked out in various shades of pink, some wearing bright pink T-shirts bearing empowering slogans like "Fight like a girl," some wearing pale pink hats identifying them as breast cancer survivors.

Yet Randall was a blur of neon yellow as she crossed the finish line at Anchorage Football Stadium well ahead of anyone else.

"I had to do something to stand out," she joked, barely winded after completing the 5-mile race in 28 minutes, 41 seconds.

In truth, Randall mistakenly tossed her pink racing singlet into the wash with 14-month-old baby Breck's laundry early Saturday morning. So a different hue had to do.


The race marked Randall's first competitive footrace since giving birth in April of last year — "I was here last year with a stroller," she said — and she was thrilled pink with how things went.

"It felt kinda good," she said.

[After cancer took away the sport she loved, Issa Forrest turned to running]

Randall averaged 5:45 miles in the race held primarily on E Street, the Coastal Trail and the Chester Creek Trail.

After about a mile, she dropped 18-year-old Briahna Gerlach of Gakona and ran the rest of the race by herself.

Randall, 34, and Gerlach, who placed second in 29:49, were the only runners to break the 30-minute mark. They were well off the stellar race record of 27:26, set in 2002 by Olympic marathoner Chris Clark of Anchorage.

The 25th annual event, one of Alaska's biggest footraces, drew its usual diverse mix — elite runners and leisurely walkers, young and old, women fighting disease and others giving thanks they are not.

Lavonne Taylor, 52, wore a nametag on her back to honor her 54-year-old sister, Tricia McVey of Washington.

"She's a survivor," Taylor said. "She found a lump, and she found it really early and really young — 44.

"As a result, I get a lot of mammograms."

Mary Flanigin, 67, has competed in the Run for Women 23 times — and she wore a pink hat in all of them.

"Every day I'm just grateful," she said. "I know I'm lucky."

Flanigin was diagnosed with cancer in 1985, a time when many people spoke about breast exams and mastectomies in whispers. By shining a light on the disease and the need for early detection, events like the Run for Women make a difference, she said.

Before awareness was heightened, "it was more embarrassing," Flanigin said. "Now I feel so supported. This race has made that happen. It's helped me and so many survivors."

On several occasions, Flanigin won the award for being the race's fastest survivor. On Saturday she placed 15th in the pink-hat brigade, finishing in 54:53. Jennifer Barnard was the top survivor in 36:28, which placed her 42nd overall.

In recognition of the race's 25th year, 25 breast cancer survivors were chosen to be honorary starters. They lined up on either side of the start chute, pink hats on their heads and sashes draped across their bodies. They delivered a kazoo salute and threw pink confetti as hordes of women and girls teemed onto the course.

Among the horde were the Violet Vigilantes, a team of 11 friends and relatives who ranged from 73-year-old Nancy Mattson to 21-month-old Chevelle Short, gathered early in the Sullivan Arena parking lot.


"We're four generations," said Mattson, who did the race with two daughters, three granddaughters and a great-granddaughter.

No one in the family has breast cancer, but Mattson said the Violet Vigilantes do the race every year "to unify with our fellow women."

Absent for the first time in years was sunshine. It was cloudy and a little rainy, and Randall said it got windy on the Coastal Trail.

Randall resumed elite-level training soon after Breck's birth and was back on the World Cup ski circuit by November.

She got better and better as the season progressed, and in February she captured the bronze medal in the freestyle sprint and skied a leg on the U.S. Ski Team's fourth-place relay team at the World Championships.

"I'm in the best shape of my life now," Randall said.

She said her running didn't return to form as quickly as her skiing, but she liked how her responded to Saturday's challenge.

"It put me to the test," she said.


Gerlach was tested too, by Randall and a distance she is not yet accustomed to. A recent Glennallen graduate who will run college cross country and track at Abilene Christian, Gerlach recently capped a great high school career by winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 races at the Class 1-2-3A state track and field championships.

She said she was able to stay with Randall for the first mile but lost contact with her after that.

"I'm used to one or two miles, and she kept going at the same pace," Gerlach said.

"I didn't even know it was Kikkan Randall. When I found out I said, 'OK, she can go.' She's crazy. She didn't even look tired."

[Rooted in revolt, the Alaska Run for Women turns 25]

Top 50 finishers

1. Kikkan Randall 28:41; 2. Briahna Gerlach 29:49; 3. Mandy Vincent-Lang 30:16; 4. Becca Rorabaugh 30:35; 5. Morgan Ekemo 31:39; 6. Kimberly Coscia 31:42; 7. Stephanie Arnold 32:04; 8. Samantha Longacre 32:17; 9. Emily Evans 32:23; 10. Lauren Fritz 32:37; 11. Amy Reed 32:54; 12. Erin Jordan 32:58; 13. Hallidie Wilt 33:21; 14. Chrissy Pohl 33:27; 15. Danelle Winn 33:50; 16. Allison Melocik 33:50; 17. Leslie Varys, Wasilla 33:52; 18. Whitney Bouchard 34:00; 19. Kristy Estrada 34:12; 20. Kathleene Simonson 34:19; 21. Bri Lowen 34:20; 22. Sarah Freistone 34:31; 23. Michelle Richards 34:59; 24. Jennifer Schrage 34:59; 25. Erin Marbarger 34:59; 26. Rebecca Windt Pearson 35:04; 27. Verena Gill 35:12; 28. Qian Chen 35:12; 29. Maria Whitworth 35:13; 30. Jean Miller 35:24; 31. Megan Olson 35:39; 32. Kristen Sieminski 35:45; 33. Kristine Kleedehn 35:49; 34. Heather Helzer 35:52; 35. Laura Mcdonough 35:54; 36. Cindy Freistone 35:57; 37. Alyse Loran 36:06; 38. Emily Berliner 36:18; 39. Lydia Bushey 36:18; 40. Alyssa Hargis 36:22; 41. Jennifer Page 36:24; 42. Jennifer Barnard 36:28; 43. Valerie Goulet 36:44; 44. Dorothy Calkins 36:45; 45. Paola Banchero 36:50; 46. Sarah Haltness 37:02; 47. Ashlee Weller 37:05; 48. Lisa Morris 37:13; 49. Kelly Carson 37:13; 50. Laura Carpenter 37:16.

Top 50 survivors

1. Jennifer Barnard 36:28; 2. Lisa Morris 37:13; 3. Cynthia Decker 39:35; 4. shelly matherne 39:36; 5. Annette Funk 40:29; 6. Mary Ann Renkert 43:05; 7. Kimberly Buskirk 44:11; 8. Teresa Arnold 45:13; 9. Katie Butler 45:56; 10. Denise Hanson 48:49; 11. Laura Venning, Eagle River 49:46; 12. Jeanne Funatake 50:35; 13. Ana Diaz 53:01; 14. Elizabeth Lopez 54:31; 15. Mary Flanigin 54:53; 16. Amber Winkel 56:01; 17. Memry Dahl 56:10; 18. Teresa Hull 58:06; 19. Dawn Hansen 1:01:24; 20. Luba Belavtseva 1:01:38; 21. Rebecca Graham 1:04:27; 22. Sarah Scanlan 1:04:29; 23. Patricia Anderson 1:04:46; 24. Lorraine Krueger 1:07:25; 25. Rochelle Peterson 1:08:40; 26. Tracie Timmerman 1:09:51; 27. Lori Pedersen 1:09:54; 28. Charlene Chanonto 1:09:59; 29. Dale Myre 1:10:41; 30. Issa Forrest 1:11:09; 31. Karen Bohne 1:11:49; 32. gwyn ackerman 1:12:21; 33. Sally Brownsberger 1:12:26; 34. Carol Russell 1:13:38; 35. Marilynn DeBoard 1:14:03; 36. Cammy Taylor 1:16:56; 37. Lynn Garrison 1:17:36; 38. Tracie Dooley 1:20:30; 39. Kathryn deSchweinitz 1:21:19; 40. Diana Radoff 1:22:16; 41. Laura Greffenius 1:22:32; 42. Queen Walker 1:22:56; 43. Nancy Correll 1:24:14; 44. Carol waters 1:25:15; 45. Linda Dodge 1:26:00; 46. Deeta Lonergan 1:26:41; 47. Suzanne Niemi 1:26:41; 48. Diane Frank 1:28:11; 49. Deborah Culver 1:28:31; 50. Sherry Frazier 1:30:25; 51. Diane Buls 1:30:28; 52. Susan Musgrove; 1:30:43; 53. Lynelle Kukowski; 1:31:46; 54. Katerina Soloview 1:32:33; 55. Mary Lentz 1:32:37; 56. Tracy Hartung 1:33:26; 57. Sheri Boggs 1:36:30; 58. Mary Swisher 1:37:15; 59. Joan Narsavich 1:40:39; 60. Erin McKay 1:41:08; 61. Gretchen Taylor 1:41:24; 62. Gwendolyn Carlson 1:55:50; 63. Carey Carpenter 2:26:40.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.