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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!