The Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day – Over, But Not Ending

Picture yourself at mile 59.

Can you really be this close to the end of your Susan G. Komen 3-Day®? Your weary feet and legs say yes, but your heart says no way. It feels as though Friday morning—when you arrived in the pre-dawn darkness, dropped off your bag, met up with your teammates and felt the sun rise over the beautiful Opening Ceremony before taking your first steps—was an eternity ago. And yet, you can’t believe it’s almost over. These brief few days have been packed with so many memories and experiences that as you near the finish line, you find yourself overwhelmed with emotion once again.

San Diego Day 3I’ve crossed the finish line as a Komen 3-Day walker fourteen times, and the impact of that one simple experience is as strong and profound now as it was the first time. Back then, my emotional response to completing the 3-Day® was mostly based on the personal amazement and pride that I felt over physically accomplishing the 60-mile walk. But in the many years since then, the impassioned response I feel as I finish the 3-Day is so much more than “I did it!” It’s also, “Look at all of these people who did it!”

I look around at the faces of my fellow walkers and crew members. I see journeys that are so much longer and greater than three days.

I see young people who had to learn about the devastation of cancer too early in their lives…

Philadelphia Day 3…older people who have seen so much in their lifetimes and wear their years like a badge of honor…

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 3 for breast cancer awareness.…parents who would walk 60,000 miles if it meant making the world a little safer for the children who run to hug them at the finish line…

302378_10151152095315281_518684367_n373926_10151152095465281_1741680733_n…daughters and sons who, in 72 hours of their lives, learned a lifelong lesson about just how much power one person can have as a force for good in the world…

Arizona Day 3…friends who helped and supported each other in ways that go deeper than mere friendship…

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 3 to find a cure for breast cancer.Washington DC 3-Day Day 3Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 3 to find a cure for breast cancer.…determined fighters, taped up like mummies, who pile out of a sweep van 2 blocks from the end just so they can cross the finish line on their own two throbbing feet…

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 3 for breast cancer awareness.…survivors who once felt crushed under the words, “You have breast cancer,” now marching forward in proud defiance, as if to shout back, “It didn’t defeat me!”

San Diego Day 3

I see true heroes.

I link arms with my teammates, all of us in some combined state of crying/laughing/cheering/limping and we cross together.

The walk is over, but the energy is sustained here in the Participant Finish Area. There’s music and noise and flowers, non-stop cheering and a long “human tunnel” of fellow walkers who have already made it to the end, and choose to STILL be on their feet—giving individual high fives to ever single new walker who comes in. Washington DC 3-Day Day 3My teammates and I give each other hugs, find a bathroom (some things never change…), pick up our Victory T-shirts, take more pictures, join the others in cheering the finishing walkers in and eventually find a place to sit and take off our shoes for a few minutes (but also, get up and dance when a song we like comes on). Soon, we will be lining up and processing out of this waiting area and into the Closing Ceremony.

1150967_10151854241466535_161301376_nThe march into Closing is a victory parade, and the streets are lined with the loved ones who supported us and our fellow walkers the other 362 days of the year. People hold up signs, take pictures and videos, and point with excitement when they see their walker going by. There are more hugs, more tears, and we’re not even into the Closing Ceremony yet!

Seattle Day 3Twin Day 3Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 3 to find a cure for breast cancer.Once we do get into the Ceremony arena, Dr. Sheri greets us once more, with even more vibrancy and energy than she had 2 days ago, if you can believe it.

Philadelphia Day 3The Closing Ceremony, like so much of the 3-Day, is hard to put into words. It’s a celebration of all that we have achieved on our 3-Day journey. The walkers enter, followed by the crew, and then the survivors. In a beautifully moving tribute to this last group, everyone holds up a shoe. I love this part. This shoe salute wasn’t something that was scripted or prompted. It was a gesture that just started spontaneously somewhere along the way,  many years ago, and quickly became an honored tradition in every 3-Day city, another small example of what makes the 3-Day so special.

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 3 to find a cure for breast cancer.Susan G. Komen 3-Day® walker take on Day 3 for breast cancer awareness.The Closing Ceremony is a brief, moving end cap to a weekend celebrating the everyday pink warriors, who, for 3 days, went way above expectations, becoming true heroes in the lives of everyone touched by breast cancer.

1238205_10151854243176535_147237905_nThe walk is over, but the journey is not ending. I come back to the 3-Day every year because our work isn’t done, and because those 3 days are like fill-up for my soul. Like me, you will take all of the things you have experienced in these unforgettable 3 days and carry them with you into the world. And the world will be better for it.

And with that, our Insider’s Guide series comes to an end too. I’ve done my little part to give you lots of details about what to expect on the 3-Day, but it’s impossible for me to capture what the whole experience will be like for you. One “insider’s” view may be different from another’s, but the overall theme is the same – the 3-Day changes your life, in ways that no one but you can know.

We hope you will join us.

If you haven’t committed to the 3-Day yet, do it today! The discounted registration fee of $50 expires at 11:55 p.m. tomorrow, February 28.

 

Want to see the entire Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day? Here are all of the segments:

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

A 3-Day Love Story

Ask just about any Susan G. Komen 3-Day® participant, and they’ll tell you how much they love the event. But every once in a while we hear a story of true, romantic love blooming on the Komen 3-Day.

Lea and Ryan met in high school, but didn’t know each other very well until they reconnected online 11 years later. Ryan was living near San Diego at the time, and Lea was in northern California. The long-distance flame was kindled, and their first real date was in 2005 when Ryan picked Lea up from the San Diego airport and took her and her teammates to the 3-Day Opening Ceremony (what a guy!). Lea says, “Ryan was so thrown by the emotion and sense of community that he felt at that Opening Ceremony, he instantly knew he wanted to join me next year. He was still not convinced he could walk 60 miles, so in 2006 we joined the San Diego 3-Day Crew together. We started walking together in 2007.”

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Lea and Ryan on their first 3-Day together in 2006

Ryan moved back to the Bay Area in 2008, and since the 3-Day returned to San Francisco that year, they were excited to be in a city where their friends and family could come cheer them on. Little did Lea know that Ryan was even more excited that their families were near, because he was planning a special celebration for Sunday of that 3-Day weekend. On Day 3, at pit stop 3, on their 3rd 3-Day together, Ryan pulled Lea aside and proposed. “I was in shock and didn’t know what was happening until a walker screamed out, ‘Oh my God, he’s proposing!’” Lea recalls. “And rather than answer right away my first response was, ‘Have you been carrying that ring this whole time?’ Needless to say, that is one of my favorite 3-Day moments.”

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Just a few miles after Ryan’s pit stop proposal

The role that the 3-Day played in Lea and Ryan’s courtship didn’t stop with Ryan’s pit stop proposal. They scheduled their wedding around the 3-Day, intending to get married the weekend before the 2009 San Francisco event. The plan was to kick off their honeymoon by walking in the 3-Day. But the 3-Day had other plans for them. “The day we put the deposit down for our wedding, we got an email that the date for the San Francisco 3-Day was moved up a weekend.”

So they made a small adjustment to the plan.

In October of 2009, Ryan and Lea started Day 1 of the San Francisco 3-Day as an engaged couple. On Day 2, they left the route to do another walk of their own – down the aisle. Then on Day 3, they came back to finish the walk as husband and wife. “It couldn’t have been any better,” Lea says.

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Mr. & Mrs.

They even used the 3-Day as a focus for their wedding. They had a traditional “money dance” at the reception and all the proceeds went toward their 3-Day fundraising goals for 2010. They had a dessert bar with all pink treats, a signature cocktail called “The Pink Ribbon” and their wedding colors were pink and black.

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A pink-themed reception

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The “Money Dance” fundraiser was a success!

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Pink treats for everyone

“We are so proud that the 3-Day is not just something that we do, it’s a part of our story.”

Sigh. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Click here to see the news story that a local station did about the happy couple.  (Please note that this story is a few years old,  and the registration information that the reporter shares at the end of the piece is no longer valid.)

Lea and Ryan will be celebrating their 5-year wedding anniversary this October, just a few weeks before they walk in San Diego, their tenth event together.

The Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day – Camp: I Love the Night Life!

An event unlike any other, the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® is a full weekend experience. While the walkers are out putting in all those miles on the route each day, the 3-Day staff and crew are back at camp, creating a home away from home for all participants.

Route image

In the last Insider’s Guide post, I talked about the some of the basic necessities that the Komen 3-Day camp provides for its participants, including sleeping tents and showers. If those things were the only amenities that you got at camp, it would still be impressive. But no. The 3-Day® doesn’t stop with the basics. They take your average camping experience and turn it up to 11.

Nom Nom Nom…

As I’ve already described in delicious detail, the 3-Day keeps its participants well-nourished throughout the event, and camp is no exception. The big difference is at camp, you’re treated to hearty, hot catered meals for dinner and breakfast. Fun fact: I recently found out that the 3-Day caterer is the same caterer that the US Olympic team uses. We’re eating the same food that Olympic athletes are eating, you guys! How cool is that?

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 2 to find a cure for breast cancer.

More of anything? More of everything!

There’s a great variety of food options for your in-camp meals. In addition to two or three hot cooked main courses and sides, dinner always includes a salad option, bread and dessert; likewise, breakfast also has scrumptious hot selections, as well as cold fare like cereal, yogurt and pastries. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soft drinks and juices are included with all camp meals as well. And all of this deliciousness is served up right onto your plate by the wonderful Food Service crew team. In case you’re worried about getting enough to fill your belly, rest assured that like your on-route sustenance, food in camp is all-you-can-eat.

Dallas Day 2

A fed walker is a happy walker.

Now, if you’re a fellow Insider who’s been around for a few years and you think you know what kind of food you’re going to get in camp, hold on to your fanny pack. Word on the street is that the menu is getting some appetizing updates this year, and you can expect to see some new items when you get to your event. Don’t worry though, the much-loved baked mac n’ cheese isn’t going anywhere.

Under the Big Top

Once you’ve got your mitts on a plate (or two…What? Sometimes you need a whole separate plate just for rolls and brownies! Don’t judge me!) of yummy grub, head on over to the dining tent. You can’t miss it. It’s an enormous white tent in the middle of camp.

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 2 to find a cure for breast cancer.

See?

You may already be hearing music coming from inside, as live entertainers perform for your dinnertime enjoyment. As more and more walkers make it back to camp and get settled, the dining tent fills up with the sights and sounds of hundreds of people with 20 miles more of life under their belts. They’re 20 miles more tired, yes, but also more alive. It’s awesome.

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That’s entertainment!

2014 teaser: the dining tent set-up that many of you are familiar from past years is scheduled to get a makeover this year as well. Nothing is finalized yet, but our hope is to say adieu to the long rows of plastic-covered tables and chairs and usher in a warmer, friendlier configuration of seating, staging and ambiance (less “mess hall” and more “fun wedding reception”). Stay tuned for a sneak peek later in the year.

Time Out! The Last Walker Has Arrived to Camp!

This is one of my absolute favorite things that happens at the 3-Day camp. As we’ve said before, the 3-Day is a take-it-at-your-own-pace walk, and NOT a race. There was no gold medal for the first person who finished the route hours earlier, but a big announcement is made and everyone stops what they’re doing to come out and welcome the LAST walker who arrives at camp each day.

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 2 to find a cure for breast cancer.

Escorted by a Route Safety supporter, the last walker carries in a flag with the words, “One Day Closer to the End of Breast Cancer.”

It’s genuinely inspiring and very emotional to see. This is a walker who perhaps moved a little more slowly throughout the day, but still kept moving. Maybe she had to stop and get her sore feet and legs taped up once or twice, but that didn’t stop her. While many of her fellow walkers were already back at camp, showered and fed, she was still putting one foot in front of the other, determined to make it to the end. She’s a living example of the spirit of the 3-Day – a commitment to never give up, even when it’s hard. And now, she raises a flag in the middle of camp to celebrate the victory we all share: being one day closer to the end of breast cancer.

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 3 to find a cure for breast cancer.

Well deserved cheers surround the last walker as she raises the flag.

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 2 to find a cure for breast cancer.

Welcome home!

Back in the Dining Tent…

The nightly Camp Show is another much-anticipated aspect of the 3-Day camp experience. Dr. Sheri Prentiss, the inspirational host of the Opening Ceremony from earlier in the day (seems like forever ago, doesn’t it?) takes us through an entertaining and often downright hilarious recap of the day’s adventures, reveals a glimpse into tomorrow’s route and weather forecast, and shares other news and announcements from around camp. She also helps us welcome guest speakers, including survivors and co-survivors who bravely share their stories. The Camp Show includes videos, a slide show, games, audience participation, music, jokes and more.

San Diego Day 1

Stories from our survivors remind us why we walk.

 

San Diego Day 1

All kinds of shenanigans go down during the Camp Show.

 

San Diego Day 2

Dr. Sheri’s reaction is priceless!

Washington DC 3-Day Day 2

Do Better? Looks like you’re doing pretty well!

Friday night is all about celebrating the 3-Day participants. We recognize top fundraisers, top teams, training walk leaders, multi-event participants and team captains. It’s a massive pat-on-the-back for all of the extraordinary things that the 3-Day walkers and crew have accomplished to get where they are. Hugs and high fives for everyone!

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 1 for breast cancer awareness.

Dr. Sheri celebrates an outstanding training walk leader

On Saturday night, we take that same love fest and open it up to friends and family. This was a new aspect that the 3-Day introduced last year, and I think it’s just wonderful. So often, our friends and family members who are not part of the 3-Day themselves struggle to comprehend what an incredible, life-changing experience the 3-Day is. Allowing them to visit camp on Saturday gives them a chance to see first-hand all that you have worked toward for the months leading up to the walk. And it’s not just the visitors who get something out of the experience: last year, I talked to a first-time walker after her event, and she told me that by Saturday night, she was so physically and emotionally exhausted from walking, she was about ready to throw in the towel. But then her family came and met her at camp that night. Getting hugs and kisses from her kids and her husband and being showered with their very sincere amazement at what she was achieving was just the thing she needed to keep going on Sunday.

Boogie Down on 40-Mile Legs

A lot of people would tell you that you’re nuts for walking 60 miles in 3 days. A lot of people would claim that the physical demands of such an endeavor would be overwhelming. A lot of people would shake their heads in disbelief when you tell them that, after completing 40 of those 60 miles, you’re then going to shake your groove thing at the 3-Day’s epic Saturday night dance party. And a lot of people would be so, so very wrong!

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 3 to find a cure for breast cancer.

Dance Party!

Washington DC 3-Day Day 2

Aw yeah…she got that “Survivor Swag”

The Saturday night dance party is everything a great dance party should be: good music, friends all around you, lots of people who “can’t dance” dancing anyway, laughter, zero judgment, FUN! And yeah, you’re tired and sore from 40 miles of walking, but my hand to heaven, I swear that dancing actually makes your muscles feel better. You may sit there at first and think, “I’m not getting up there,” but the energy is infectious. You feel your toes tap, your hips get a little swivel in them and before you know it, you’re up on the stage leading the crowd in the Cupid Shuffle.

dance party emts

Even the EMTs can’t resist the dance party.

 

Think you know all the ins and outs of camp now? Well we’re not done yet! In the next Insider’s Guide post I’ll show you all the ways that the 3-Day makes its participants into “Happy Glampers.”

Ready to become an Insider yourself? Register now, and you can start your 3-Day journey for just $50. Don’t wait! The price goes up to $70 on March 1.

 

Want to see the entire Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day? Here are all of the segments:

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