Thank you to everyone who participated in the 24th Annual Run for the Refuge on July 24-26! We were so excited by the support we received in holding our first virtual “race,” with more that 400 people participating. That’s double the number of runners and walkers who usually join us in person. 

We’ve been so delighted and inspired by images of people participating across the U.S., from in the Arctic, to the deserts of southern Utah, to New York City, and beyond. It was powerful to see how

Crystal Dzehgak Frank and Princess Daazhraii Johnson running in Anchorage. Photo by Crystal Dzehgak Frank

participants find healing and joy by connecting with friends and family in your own home places while celebrating the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Runner Princess Daazhraii Johnson spoke to that healing on Twitter: “There’s days I feel down about real threats to the Arctic Refuge. Still year after year I join fellow Gwich’in tribal members to #RunfortheRefuge and we think of our Ancestors, the caribou, and the many blessings of life. Our foundation is spiritual & I’m reminded to have faith.” 

Other inspiring social media posts include @snowhunterak’s post, which said they ran a personal best time for their 5k, and @alexwbrede was (maybe?) the only person to swim for the Refuge, completing a 5k in Chena Lake. Participants ranged in age from 15 months to over 80 years old, from 30 US states plus D.C*., as well as Great Britain and Kingsley Falls, Quebec. Alaskans joined in Anchorage, Chugiak, Denali, Eagle River, Ester, Fairbanks, Ft. Wainright, Galena, Gustavus, Girdwood, Healy, Juneau, Kodiak, Nenana, North Pole, Seward, Wales, and Wasilla.

This year’s race logo features Fairbanks painter Cherissa Dukelow’s depiction of the coastal plain and Beaufort Sea. As our 2020 featured artist, Cherissa is creating three images of northern Alaska landscapes facing threats from extractive industry. Learn more about her work at

Though we weren’t able to gather to run and walk together in person, the ability to share stories and photos across the distance opens up new possibilities for what the Run for the Refuge might look like in the future. A few honorable mentions that we’re able to award for the first time:


  • Farthest from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:  Isle of Man, Great Britain


  • Closest to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Toolik Lake Field Station Crew, about 15 miles from the edge of the Arctic Refuge (check out Joe Franich’s photos of their bike/run/paddle event here!)

Toolik Field Station bikes for the Refuge. Photo by Joe Franich

During last summer’s weeks of dense wildfire smoke, it seemed unlikely until the morning of the race that we’d be able to safely host a run given the respiratory dangers. If these two very different years have made anything clear, it’s that adaptation is the norm, and we’re grateful to everyone who speaks up for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge through your actions, votes, art, phone calls, emails, and organizing. 

We expect the Department of Interior to issue a Record of Decision (ROD) soon on the administration’s clumsy efforts to exploit the coastal plain for oil, a decision which will mark the end of the environmental review process for leasing the coastal plain. But it certainly won’t be an end to the ongoing work of defending this sacred place.   

While we really can’t say what next year’s version of the Run for the Refuge – or any of the coming year, for that matter – might look like, we know we’ll have a strong community alongside us.  

Left to right: Atigun, Joe, and Holly Dean and puppy Fen combine the Run for the Refuge and Fairbanks Trails Challenge. Photo by Holly Dean

Neighborhood gathering in Healy to run or bike Stampede Road on July 26. Photo by Melanie Hall

*States included AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, HI, IL, LA, MA, MI, MN, MT, NC, NM, NY, OH OR, PA, SC, UT, VA, VT WA, WI, WV, and WY! 

Northern Alaska Environmental Center

Stay Informed!

Protect northern Alaska and the Arctic. Receive updates from the Northern Center.  Learn about the work we do to protect our wildlands and waters and how you can help.

Thanks for subscribing to Northern Center Updates