The Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day – The Start of Something Beautiful

I have walked or crewed in 20 (!) Susan G. Komen 3-Day® events, and was a Komen 3-Day coach for the past four years. So, it’s safe to say I’ve learned a thing or two about the 3-Day® along the way. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing my “Insider’s Guide,” giving you my own perspective on some of the most incredible and memorable aspects of the 3-Day.  

 These posts will focus on the experience of the event itself, a weekend like no other, that will change your life. And yes, even after twenty 3-Day events, I still walk away from every one of them a changed person. I might be walking away stiff and sore, but the change is always for the better.

The Start of Something Beautiful

You’ve waited, you’ve trained, you’ve raised a ton of money, and you felt like that circled date on your calendar would never come. But at last, here you are, at the week of your event. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-timer or an old pro, the week before the 3-Day buzzes with excitement.

One of the most thrilling “this is really happening” steps is getting packed. The 3-Day is your home away from home for a few days, so bring along the things you need to make it comfortable. Unless you need a hair dryer to be comfortable. You have to leave that at home, and possibly reexamine your priorities.


Packed and ready (with the help of my little pink super pal)

You pick out your clothes – for me, it’s funny/inspirational shirts and capri leggings, good socks (2 pairs for each day!), and my favorite visor – and pack them in large Ziploc bags, sorted by day. Having each day’s clothes bundled and separated will make it easier to find them in your duffle bag when you have to wake up and get dressed before the sun comes up. You stow your toiletries, sleeping bag, maybe a comfy pillow. Your tentmate is bringing an air mattress to share, so it’s one less thing for you to think about.

Now you pack the important stuff. I’m not talking about your blister ointment, or your moleskin or your matching team tutus, though those things are important, too. This is the picture of your friend’s mom who passed away, and whose beautiful smiling face lives on a button you’ll wear on your pack. It’s the string of pearls you’ll wear to remind you of another friend, a fighter who was taken far too soon by breast cancer. It’s the necklace of kukui nuts with little pink turtles painted on them, which your teammate—a 5-year survivor—brought you from her Hawaiian vacation, as a way to thank you for walking for her and with her. These are the things that you’ll turn to throughout the weekend to remind you (as if you could forget) of why you’re here and why you’ll keep going, even when reason, pain and fatigue may tell you to stop.

 kukui nuts

Then you go to bed. I know you’re excited, but try and get some sleep, because tomorrow is Day 1, and remember that thing I said about getting up before the sun? That’s now less than 8 hours away.



Or is it? The moon and stars are still out, but you pop out of bed with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas. Even before you get to the Opening Ceremony location, you know you’re close, because the way is lit by the taillights of hundreds of cars. Husbands, friends, parents and roommates who love you enough to wake up at zero-dark-thirty to drive you are sitting in a line of traffic coming into the parking lot. You see signs saying, “Walker Drop-off This Way” and you think, “That’s me!”

You exit the car carefully, pull your bag out of the back, and a friendly crew member directs you toward the Gear Trucks. They’re regular moving trucks, but they’re covered in pink streamers and signs, and the people who greet you as you approach are literally dressed as superheroes. One of them gives you a high-five, and as he lifts your bag into the truck, he thanks YOU for being there.

rack attack day 1

A quick team photo at the start of Day 1!

As you approach the crowd of waiting walkers, the anticipation in the air is tangible. All around you, people are decked out in costumes, memorial t-shirts, goofy pink hats and wigs, and every size and shape of training-worn walking shoes. You and your teammates have all found each other, and you stop to take one of many pictures. Everyone puts one foot into the circle, and you snap a shot of the shoes. Your companions for the journey.

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 2 for breast cancer awareness.

Let’s do this, shoes!

Before you know it, the Opening Ceremony is beginning. Music is playing, and everyone leans this way and that way in a big group stretch. Then Dr. Sheri, the 3-Day spokesperson, comes out to inspire everyone with words of encouragement and motivation. Soon, she shares the stage with some incredible people – your fellow walkers and crew members, who carry flags signifying their reasons for walking. And behind them, more flags are carried out, this time by breast cancer survivors. I’ve seen some version of this ceremony nearly two dozen times before, and it still gets me. Every. Single. Time. The music swells, Dr. Sheri gives us one more “you can do this!” and we’re off!

Dallas Day 1

Getting warmed up

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

Dr. Sheri sends us off with words of inspiration

Stay tuned for the next installment in my “Insider’s Guide,” where I’ll talk about walking. Lots and lots of walking.

I know that I’m just one person in this big, beautiful 3-Day family, and that every person’s “inside” view is unique. Is your experience with the 3-Day similar? Totally different? Are you waiting to have that first experience? Share your stories in the comments!

“The story of the commercial is my story.” – Meet the star of the 2014 Susan G. Komen 3-Day TV commercial

Last week, we shared an exclusive sneak peek at the 2014 Susan G. Komen 3-Day® television commercial. I’ve been thrilled to see so much great feedback about it on social media, and one of the comments I’ve seen repeatedly is, “That’s how I felt!”  So many of our walkers feel personally connected to the story that was told in only 60 seconds.

If the commercial’s story feels authentic, that’s because it is. The star of the 2014 Komen 3-Day commercial is Becky G., a real 3-Day walker who participated for the first time last summer in Boston. I had the pleasure of talking with Becky recently and learning more about how she became the face of the 3-Day commercial.

with sophia

Becky and her favorite co-star

Erin: How did you first get involved with the 3-Day?

Becky: I lost my mom to breast cancer 12 years ago. I never did any sort of breast cancer events or fundraisers, for fear of having to deal with her death. Then in 2012, my friend Adrienne [who is also in the commercial] did the 3-Day and told me, “You need to do this next year.” I told her I wasn’t sure I was ready to deal with the emotion of it, but she really inspired me.

Erin: The 3-Day can be scary in a lot of ways, including dealing with those strong and sometimes painful emotions. But one thing I’ve always loved about it is that it’s such a safe place to experience that range of feelings.

Becky: Yes, exactly. Aside from having my daughter, the 3-Day was one of the best times of my life. Completely life changing. And what I love about the commercial is that it really shows that it’s hard work, it’s a commitment that you’re making. When I walked in Boston, on Day 2 I remember thinking, I don’t know if my body can take another step. We were just about to go through a cheering station, I was hobbling through. And the thought in my head was, “This is so hard, but at least I can see the end of this pain.” For my mom, her end was the end. That kept me going. The pain I was having in my knee was nothing compared to what she went through for years, especially right before her death. That was inspiring to me.  And to then go into a cheering station and feel all of that support was so amazing.

with crew

Erin: What was the audition process like?

Becky:  I did my audition over Skype. It was a total disaster! [Laughs] My computer completely crashed right at my interview time, then something happened with the computer on their end too. We only had 10 minutes for the audition, and we used 5 just trying to get online! When we finally connected, they asked me, why do you walk? What would you tell people? I figured the commercial was just going to show different people talking to the camera about their own experiences.

Erin: So you thought it would be you and some other people, each sharing a few seconds of your personal experiences. Similar to some of our other 3-Day videos.

Becky: Yes, that’s what I assumed. But then they asked me to read a line of script, and I thought, I’m not an actor! The line was, “This is where I want to quit.” It was so hard for me to read the words because I would never quit. Reading that line out of context from the whole commercial was hard. But now I understand it, and it was exactly what I had felt. And then that was it! I didn’t hear anything for a while, but then I got an email saying I’d gotten the lead.

making magic

Erin: At what point did you get the whole script for the commercial?

Becky: After they booked my ticket to Atlanta! They knew I had a daughter, and they asked if she could be in the commercial too, so I had some idea [of what I would be doing], but not the extent that they had storyboarded. If I had known that I would really be starring, that it would be so much me, I never would’ve sent my application in the first place. I would’ve been too afraid.

Erin: Sounds like the 3-Day! You sign up, not really knowing what you’re in for.

Becky: Yes! Knowing what I know now, I would’ve been so sad for myself if I didn’t jump at the opportunity. When I saw [what the commercial was going to be], the fear went away. The story of the commercial is my story.  I was terrified to do the 3-Day, and that fear held me back. But when I pushed past the fear, that’s what woke me up. I think of all the amazing people who are now a huge part of my life, who I wouldn’t have met. If I had let that fear rule my life, I would’ve missed it.

Erin: Did you have any hesitations about being on a national TV commercial?

Becky: Once they cast me, I was committed to it and I was all in. The big fear for me was [recording the voiceovers in] the recording studio. I am not an actor! They wanted me to read these lines, and I thought, “What if I can’t do it?” But it was with the most amazing team of people. They held me so tight and walked me through the process step by step. They knew when they could push me and when they couldn’t. They were so sensitive. It’s never been like me to feel that confident with what the world was throwing at me. But with this, I felt so confident.

in studio

Erin: Describe the experience of shooting the commercial.

Becky: It was all so great! I had no idea what to expect. When you turn on your TV, you just see the finished product, so smooth and glamorous, and that wasn’t the case [laughs]. One morning, we were up at 5 or 5:30 and it was freezing cold. They were getting a shot of me tying my shoe 100 times.

Erin: The opening shot of the commercial!

Becky: Yeah, and it was so cold, and after so many takes, I forgot how to tie my shoe! But then I remembered that there were women and men at that very moment who were getting up to walk, doing the same thing.

getting the shot

Erin: Wow, yeah. The Atlanta walkers would’ve just been starting Day 2, right?

Becky: Right. But it was all so great. I was surrounded by real people, and they took such good care of me. There were a few times that I felt like they were treating me too well almost! Everyone working on the shoot just knew that there was something big happening.

becky in shot

Erin: Was the experience what you expected?

Becky: No, not at all. [Shooting the commercial] doesn’t top the 3-Day, though I kind of lump it all in together. I don’t think anything could top the 3-Day. My best life moments have been my daughter’s birth, the 3-Day, and this. Discovering more about myself, and continuing on this path of service—it’s been amazing.

Erin: What are you hoping people take away most from the ads?

Becky: I hope that a million people sign up to walk! I really do believe that the more walkers we have, the more funds are going to come in, and the better chance there is that I’m not going to leave my daughter without a mother. I want walkers, because it means funds. But it also means of those millions of people, they’re going to experience a life changing event, and what that might bring to them personally, but also as a whole, making the world a better place. Looking at the big picture, what can we do to help? Since I did the 3-Day, my life has changed. I’m focusing on what’s important.

adrienne, saralyn, becky

Adrienne, Saralyn, and Becky are the three of the real walkers who brought the 3-Day commercial to life

Thank you, Becky, for sharing your story, and for so perfectly representing the personal journey that so many walkers experience over those 60 miles. I think it’s difficult to capture what it’s like to do the 3-Day, but this commercial comes pretty close. You can see the full 2-minute version of the TV commercial on the 3-Day website ( Becky is registered to walk again in Philadelphia, and you can walk with her there, or in one of our other 3-Day locations in 2014.

“If life puts a roller coaster in your path, ride it!” : The 3-Day Coaches’ Favorite Moments from 2013, Part 3

For the final post in the Coaches’ Favorite Moments series, we hear from Michigan coach Jennifer Hanskat. Jennifer has been a 3-Day coach for 9 years, and has also participated in the 3-Day 17 times. One of her most cherished 3-Day memories happened just this year in San Diego, where a promise made to a friend finally was fulfilled.

b and hanskat

Bridget and Jennifer on the 2008 San Diego 3-Day

“In 2008 I walked with Bridget [Spence] in San Diego. It was the first and only time that both of us were able to participate as walkers in two events within the same year. I had previously walked in Michigan with my family, Bridget in DC with her family, and then we came together in San Diego for the last event of the year. We walked the entire walk together, and on Saturday afternoon we saw the roller coaster at Belmont Park and talked about how fun it would be to ride the coaster.

“By the time we were at the pit stop next to the coaster it was late in the day, we were tired, hungry and just ready to be done. For a variety of reasons we passed up the coaster and didn’t ride it. The very next day we talked about it and decided, we should have done it. The regret of not riding the coaster came up a few times over the next few years and we came up with our very own slogan: ‘If life puts a roller coaster in your path, ride it!’

“When I registered to walk in San Diego this year, I knew I was going to ride that coaster, to honor the memory of my beautiful friend, Bridget, who passed away earlier this year. I discussed this with my team and many were on board with me. A few weeks before the event, I learned that the route may have changed and that we might pass Belmont Park early in the morning before it was opened. I was disappointed but ultimately thought that if it was meant to be, it would work out.

“As we began Day 2 I realized that yes, we were going to pass by Belmont Park later in the afternoon on the way back to camp. I was walking with several members of my team and I told them that I was riding the coaster. As we neared the pit stop close to Belmont Park, several more members of my team ended up at the same location. It was meant to be!

“In the end, 13 of us rode the coaster…I rode in the front car with my dear friend, Nanette, who was also very close with Bridget. We rode that coaster with our hands in the air the entire time, laughing and celebrating the life of Bridget. I am sure that Bridget was smiling and laughing from heaven as she watched us. It worked out exactly like it was supposed to.”

coaster hands up

Jennifer and her teammates rode the Belmont Park roller coaster on the 2013 San Diego walk, to celebrate Bridget’s life.

coaster coming in

The riders come home!


I was honored to be one of the 13 coaster riders that day too, and I can’t help but smile at the correlation between that literal roller coaster ride we took and the symbolic roller coaster ride that so many experience on their 3-Day journey. You approach the coaster with excitement and maybe some trepidation. Maybe you made the choice on your own or maybe your friends talked you into it. You wait, you prepare and finally, you board the train. From there, you take off on a thrilling ride that’s exhilarating and sometimes scary. It’s full of ups and downs, unexpected turns and bumps, and in most cases, lots of smiles and laughter. It’s the same with the 3-Day, and I am thankful every day that I said “Yes” to that ride the first time.