The Insider’s Peek at the 3-Day Route – Part 1

Hi friends! It’s Erin, your Susan G. Komen 3-Day® Insider, and I’m coming at you today with a special Insider’s Guide to the Komen 3-Day. Last year, we brought you the full Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day, which included (among many other exciting things) some details about the route, from the perspective of yours truly, a 15-time 3-Day® walker. Those posts (which you can see here and here) really focused on what walkers can expect to see and hear on the route, but didn’t really dive too deeply into how the route is created. And that’s good. I mean, if we here at the 3-Day are doing our jobs right, walkers will journey through their miles, enjoying all that the route has to offer, without ever questioning the behind-the-scenes work that goes into building that 60-mile experience.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog route

But you know what? I do have questions. I know I’m not alone either; many of you out there have probably wondered a lot of the same things I have about how an event of this size and scope is executed every year so flawlessly. I’ve been around the 3-Day for the better part of my adult life, and my curiosity has always itched for behind-the-scenes intel. Even having worked for the 3-Day for the past 5+ years, I’ve never really pulled back the curtain, so to speak, on how the incredible routes come into being. Until now!

I had the chance to chat up my colleague and friend, Sarah C., who is the Director of Event Production for the 3-Day, and the expert on the ins-and-outs of how the 3-Day route is created.

Here’s what I learned…

The Man With the Plan (Well, One Man and 3 Women…) – So who are these wizards behind the event planning curtain? The 3-Day employs 4 full-time Event Planning Managers (or EPMs) on staff, who are dedicated to planning all aspects of each 3-Day event, including the route. One of the EPMs (Dave) manages one 3-Day event, and the other three (Emily, Kendra and Missy) handle two 3-Day locations each.

Down Time? What’s That? – One might think that after one 3-Day ends, the EPM can kick back and relax for a few months before even thinking about the next year’s events, but that’s not true. It takes nearly a full year to plan a 3-Day event, so once one ends, it’s time to start thinking about the next one right away. (I imagine it’s like Santa’s elves on December 26: “Okay, let’s start getting ready for next Christmas!”) Everything has to be redone every year. Nothing is a given. The event planning team prides itself on building great relationships in all seven 3-Day markets, but those associations are fluid; sometimes there are new contacts (a new fire inspector, for example) or new legal requirements, so it’s a new learning curve. There’s some networking and sales involved, but the EPMs know the cities well and spend a lot of time nurturing relationships. Because the 3-Day is a well-established event at this point, it’s a little easier, but all the magic still has to happen every year.

Let’s Talk Big Picture – The first thing the EPMs think about is, how are we going to highlight the city? In every 3-Day market, there are some really iconic sights we want to make sure we include which showcase the location we’re in. Think about it: if you’re going to Seattle, you’re going to want to see the Space Needle, right? Or LOVE Park in Philadelphia. Or spend lots of time on the Pacific Coast in San Diego. So the plan starts there, then works outward to surrounding areas. Even for an event like Michigan, which isn’t really centered in one major city, we try to include towns that, over the years, have evolved into what the Michigan event is (think Plymouth and its amazing pink fountain cheering station, for example); we knew that the metro areas were so great, so THAT’s what we wanted to hit instead of being right in Detroit.

susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog route

Walking in Twin Cities? Of course we’ll take you through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden!

Once we know what points in the city we want to spotlight, the cycle starts with contracting our major sites (Opening and Closing Ceremony locations, camp, lunch and pit stops) in the winter months.

Major Sites = Kind of a Big Deal – I think a lot of participants, myself included, take for granted the task of finding a camp location. When it comes to planning the route, camp serves as the anchor site, and everything else works outward from there. There are so many different moving parts, not only for camp to work logistically, but also to be a great layout from an experience standpoint. Is the site big enough to accommodate all of our participants and tents and vehicles? Does it have a terrain that’s conducive to a great camp experience? Sarah shared a story about how, a few years ago, they had considered using a really nice community college as camp for one 3-Day event; it would have been beautiful, but not the best from an experience standpoint, because the showers would have to be located half a mile from the sleeping area, which was too far from the dining tent. Stuff like that is taken into consideration, and so the plan is constantly tweaked.

susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog route camp

Building Camp is a tall order.

There is also a ton of permitting required for camp; we need building permits so we can put stakes into the ground and keep those giant tents upright, permits for propane and water usage, fire code compliance, having enough exits, food service permits, noise permits… There have been amazing potential camp sites that seemed perfect, but then oh no, they didn’t allow overnight sleeping. If one thing isn’t checked off, it may be a no-go. Finding Opening and Closing Ceremony sites is a similar process, though a little less intensive. The more permitting required, the harder it is to get a site.

Connecting the Dots – Think of route planning as establishing the dots first: camp is the biggest dot, followed by ceremony locations, then lunch and pit stops for each day. We figure out where the dots are going to be, then look at routes we could possibly take to connect them.

You Have Thoughts – At this point, I asked Sarah a kind of cynical question, but it’s one I’ve certainly thought about through my years of walking, and one I’ve heard from other walkers too: does the 3-Day really listen to suggestions that participants make about the route? Sarah answered with an immediate and resounding, “Yes!” (I should’ve known better…)

We’ve gotten feedback in survey comments about “Can’t we highlight here or there, walk past this spot or that spot?” and sometimes we can make it happen. We know that the majority of our participants like a good mixture of trails, city walking, residential neighborhoods and downtown/main street areas, so we think about that and we listen to what you have to say. There are certain neighborhoods that we know are safe, have good sidewalks, etc. If we know there’s a beautiful trail between two stops in Dallas, we’ll try to include it, to have some variety. We might go a few blocks in one direction or another to make sure we pass the Governor’s mansion in Atlanta (in fact, a few years ago, almost the entire Atlanta route was revamped based on participant feedback). And just this past year, we got numerous comments from Twin Cities walkers about all the trails, and so we changed a large portion of Day 2 to include a new town and some more residential walking.

All that said, I think we all can acknowledge that, while we’d love to set up the route to include every great area and neighborhood around a 3-Day city, we also need to create a safe (priority numero uno), continuous route—dot-connecting all those logistically-complex major sites, remember? So if you have a great park/neighborhood/trail to suggest, heck yeah you can tell us, and we’ll do our best! And hey, if it turns out we can’t incorporate them into the route, you can always use those amazing locations as the setting for some spectacular training walks. Boom!

Oh, By the Way… With variety, often comes hills. We don’t intentionally include hills, but we also can’t avoid them. In case you were wondering.

susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog route

A little elevation gain is good for the soul.

Fascinating stuff, right? Well we’re not done! Later in the week, your Insider will be back with Part 2 from my conversation with Sarah, about all things 3-Day route! Check back soon, and meanwhile, let us know your thoughts in comments!


9 Ways You Can Make Friends Through the 3-Day

Today is Make a Friend Day, and we here at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® know a thing or two about this particular skill. The Komen 3-Day has been bringing together family and friends, old and new, for years, and we’re not done yet! The 2015 3-Day® season is underway, and we thought it would be the friendly thing to do to share some ways that you can look forward to making friends during your 3-Day journey.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 mile walk blog friends

  1. Ask people to walk with you. (Okay, so technically, those people are probably already your friends, but think of how much closer you’ll be after you walk 60 miles together!)
  2. Go to a 3-Day community event! If you live in or near one of our 3-Day locations, you can attend a Get Started Meeting, Walk & Talk or any of the dozens of meet-ups taking place over the next few months. RSVP at
  3. Follow the 3-Day on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are all terrific virtual “places” to meet your fellow walkers and crew members. More and more, we hear stories of people who became acquainted on social media, then meet in person for the first time when they get to the 3-Day. How wonderful that we live in a world where that’s possible!
  4. Attend a training walk. The 3-Day training walk calendar won’t start filling up for another month, after we finish recruiting and training our volunteer training walk leaders, but the coming spring will bring loads of options. So bookmark and check it often. No training walks scheduled in your area? Think about leading one yourself and watch the friends come to you!susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 mile walk blog friends
  5. Wear your 3-Day gear. If you have a victory t-shirt from a past 3-Day, wear it out in public. Your fellow 3-Dayers around town will spot you and say hello, and those who are not involved with the 3-Day may ask you questions to find out what it’s all about. Don’t have a victory shirt? You can buy a variety of 3-Day shirts and other apparel at
  6. Use the 3-Day Friend Finder. Registered participants can log in at and use this nifty tool for finding fellow walkers and crew members who live nearby.
  7. Call the coaches. There’s no one friendlier! The coaches love to hear from you, even if you don’t have a specific question and just want to say hello, so give them a jingle! 800-996-3DAY.
  8. Talk to strangers. Actually, we like to say that there ARE no strangers on the 3-Day, just friends you haven’t met yet. So when your 3-Day event rolls around, take the time to chat up the soon-to-be-friends you walk or crew alongside. Hear their stories and tell them yours.susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer 60 mile walk blog friends
  9. There’s that one person you know, but right now, she’s just an acquaintance. She works in your building, or goes to your gym, or she’s got kids in the same school as your kids. But you know, through the grapevine, that she lost her mom to breast cancer. Go talk to her. Ask her how she’s doing. Tell her you’re walking. Maybe she’ll want to walk with you.

3-Day Blog Throwback – The Insider’s Guide

Hi there readers!

Erin D. here. In addition to being the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®’s head blogger, social media mover and shaker, and occasional event staffer, I’m also a 15-time veteran Komen 3-Day walker.

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog 60 miles social media insider's guide

Alysssa, Jenn and me – the 3-Day social media team in action!

A year ago, we ran a series of posts on the 3-Day blog called the “Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day.” The posts were written by yours truly, as a way to share my experiences on the 3-Day®, from Opening to Closing. The series was meant to serve as a way for people to get a look at various aspects of the event from the perspective of someone who has been there many times.

If you didn’t get a chance to see the Insider’s Guide series, particularly if you’re new to the 3-Day, we encourage you to click back through the posts.

The Start of Something Beautiful

Pointing, Pacing, and… Motorcycles Wearing Lingerie

Pit Stops and Cheering and Sweeps, Oh My!

3-Day Camp: Just Like a Sleepover, Only More Pink

3-Day Camp: I love the Night Life

3-Day Camp: Happy Glamping on Main Street

Over But Not Ending

I’m just one Insider, and I know that every single walker, crew member, volunteer and supporter experiences the 3-Day in a different way. We love hearing about your experiences and memories, so share them in comments or post them to the 3-Day’s Facebook page, tweet them @The3Day or tag #The3Day and #DoSomethingHuge in your Instagrams!