The Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day – Pit Stops, and Cheering, and Sweeps, Oh My!

The last Insider’s Guide post delved into the ways that the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® keeps you moving and keeps you safe. Now, let’s jump into the ways for you to stay nourished, stay well, and stay motivated.

Route image

Rest, Refuel, Relieve Yourself – No, that’s not just a catchy headline I just made up, that really is the unofficial motto of the 3-Day pit stops. Pit stops are magical little worlds—themed, decorated, and costumed—that are strategically located along the route every 2-4 miles, so you’re never very far from the next one. Read on to see what you’ll find at a 3-Day pit stop…

Atlanta 3-Day Day 2

Right this way, mama

80s pit

A time warp, or just your typical 3-Day pit stop?

Food – You will be many things while you are a 3-Day walker, and one of them definitely is well-fed. Good thing too. Keeping your energy up is crucial to sustain your physical activity for 6, 8, 10 hours a day, and your body needs constant fuel to do that. On average, walkers burn about 100 calories per mile of walking, so you should absolutely permit yourself to indulge in the delectable assortment of all-you-can-eat goodies offered at the pit stops. You’ll find packaged snacks (chips and pretzels, peanuts, baby carrots, granola bars), fresh fare (oranges and bananas, bagels), and the 3-Day community at large would never forgive me if I failed to give a shout-out to the graham-wiches. I know for a fact that there are walkers out there who wait all year to get their hands on those sweet PB&J treats. So dig in, walkers, and hit the road when you’re ready. Noshing while walking is totally permitted. And since there will be snacks for you every 2-4 miles along your way, you don’t ever have to worry about going hungry.

Arizona Day 1

Some Youth Corps kids pass out snacks

grahamwiches stamped


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

Quite a variety of tasty treats

Susan G. Komen walkers gear up and take on Day 1 to find a cure for breast cancer.

Arrrrrrgh ye hungry?

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

Orange you glad we have snacks? (Okay, I’ll stop now.)


Hydration – You’ll also refill your water bottle at the pit stops – at every pit stop. Dehydration is one of the most frequently treated medical issues on the 3-Day, and remember, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. So drink your water, even if you feel like you don’t need it. Consume the entire bottle between pit stops. Alternate with sports drink at every other stop, so you keep your electrolytes up too. If you have trouble remembering to drink (not usually an issue if it’s hot, but a more common problem in cooler temps), you and your teammates can play the Orange Shirt Drinking Game, a little something I picked up walking in the very hot Twin Cities this year. Unlike the drinking games you may have played in college, this one will actually result in your good health and well-being. It’s simple: any time you spot an orange-shirted Route Safety crew member, take a drink of your water/sports drink. They’re out among you all day, so you’re sure to get plenty of drink reminders. See? You didn’t know staying hydrated could be so much fun, did you?

refill time

1) Refill bottle; 2) Keep being fabulous; 3) Repeat.

Deluxe Accommodation Portable Toilets -  So now you’re out there, hydrating like a champ, and it naturally follows that when you get to the next pit stop, you’ll be making a beeline for the pee line (you can thank my 15 year old daughter for the rhyming reminder). I know what you’re thinking. Porta-potties? Ugh! I thought the same at first, but believe me when I say that these are not the foul, stinky, oh-dear-heavens-what-is-that-on-the-seat? outhouses you may be imagining.  I swear, on my last square of TP (which you won’t have to fret about, since there are always spare rolls within reach), that these are the cleanest, most well maintained mobile commodes you’re likely to come across. The pit stop crew teams even go the extra mile to make your…ahem, “alone time”…a bit more enjoyable, by hanging entertaining pictures, comics, trivia, or jokes inside the doors. Bottom (no pun intended) line, when nature calls, you’ll answer from the inside of the nicest portable facilities you’ve ever used.

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

See? They aren’t so bad! Look how happy we are!

Medical attention – Oh, how I seethe when someone dismisses what we 3-Dayers do: “Well, it’s just walking, right? How hard can it be?” Yeah! 20 miles of walking a day, times 3! Make no mistake, the physical impact that walkers endure from all those miles is real. Training is vital, and in a perfect world, your body will be as prepared as it can be for the 60-mile demands you’re putting on it. That said, if you do find yourself with a troubling muscle ache, joint pain, blister (the other most frequently treated medical issue), or some other feeling of unwellness, seek out the red shirts, and you will find the incredible medical crew members ready to take care of you at every pit stop. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and paramedic/EMTs, these saints on earth volunteer to spend the weekend with your sweaty feet in their hands, working small miracles with moleskin, trainer’s tape, and cooling ointments so you can get back out on the route. After you grab one more graham-wich for the road…

San Diego Day 1

The medical crew is SO happy to take care of you!

Arizona Day 2

You’ll find a medical tent at every pit stop, just in case you need it.

Dallas Day 2

Trust the medical crew’s advice.They know their stuff.

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Have Hope, Will Travel

After John Shinar lost Martha, his wife of 30 years, to breast cancer, he got involved with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® in a big way. He decided that walking in one Komen 3-Day event in the Twin Cities, where he lives, wasn’t enough for him, so John made the extraordinary commitment to raise funds and walk in all fourteen 3-Day® events in 2013. He traveled coast to coast, logging 840 miles in memory of Martha.

John’s undertaking—essentially becoming a full-time 3-Day walker for the summer—was exceptional, but every year, hundreds of other 3-Day walkers pack up their sneakers and sleeping bags and travel to an out-of-town 3-Day destination as well.  What a wonderful world it would be if we could bring a 3-Day walk in every city in America. Alas, that just isn’t possible, so for many walkers, a “destination 3-Day” is the only option.

I live in the Los Angeles area, a location that doesn’t currently have a 3-Day event, so I’ve pretty much always had to travel to walk. At first, my teammates and I stayed as local as we could—we traveled a couple hours south to San Diego, then a couple more hours north to San Francisco, and one year, we even ventured all the way up to Seattle. Then in 2010, we decided to make the destination part of the whole experience, and registered for Washington, DC. In the years following, we’ve made the choice to travel to walk in Philadelphia, Boston and the Twin Cities. This year, we’re Atlanta-bound.

Traveling to the 3-Day is not easy. I have to budget additional time (an extra day before and after the walk for flying, and sometimes more days, if I decide to do some extra visiting) and money (plane tickets, hotels, cabs). Packing a duffle bag with everything I need for the event, plus extra travel days, is an exercise in creativity and patience. Then there are the additional logistics that go with leaving my family for several days and making all the arrangements for the kids’ carpools, after school activities, meals, etc. But I truly look at those sacrifices as an investment in something bigger. If I travel, I walk, and the funds that I raise for the 3-Day go toward my goal of seeing an end to breast cancer in my lifetime.

The investment is also in what I get out of walking. In my “Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day” blog posts, I’ve been sharing my perspective on some of the incredible experiences of being a 3-Day walker. Day to day life moves so fast (fast technology, fast paced job, fast cars…well, except in L.A. traffic), and walking forces me to slow down and take in every moment. Seeing another corner of the world, sometimes a place that I’ve never been to before, and experiencing what it has to offer from two feet instead of 4 wheels is such a gift.

wing stamped

I know that some of you reading this may be saying, “That’s great for you, but I just can’t do that.” I get it. I respect that making the trip to walk somewhere far from home is not feasible for everyone. It’s a choice I make—and a personal choice for each person—to give up some other things throughout the year so I can do this thing for 3 days. They’re 3 days that fulfill me in an immeasurable way, so for me, the choice is simple, even if getting there will be difficult.

This year, with the 3-Day visiting 7 cities instead of last year’s 14, even more participants will be traveling to their events. It was a tough decision for the 3-Day to exit from cities where we had established deep ties over the years, but it has been inspiring to see so many walkers and teams from those cities accept and embrace the change and look forward to representing their hometowns in a new location this year. Look for big contingents of Tampa Bay walkers taking on Atlanta, Boston and DC walkers descending on Philadelphia, and Chicago and Cleveland folks greeting their Midwest neighbors in Michigan and the Twin Cities.

John and his Miles for Martha teammates will return to a few cities to walk this year, and in the meantime, there are 7 other incredible people (so far!), who are registered to walk in all 7 Komen 3-Day events. If you live in one of those cities, we hope you will welcome them and all of the traveling 3-Day participants to the place that will be their home for the weekend. And if you’re thinking about making the trip to a distant 3-Day destination in 2014, I encourage you to do it. Make it happen! Like with everything 3-Day related, you won’t regret it, and there’s no question that a warm welcome awaits you, too.

The Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day – Pointing, Pacing, and… Motorcycles Wearing Lingerie?

My last “Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day” post got us to Day 1, through the beautiful Opening Ceremony, and out onto the route. And now, we’re walking, we’re walking…

Obvious Statement in 3…2…1… – 60 miles is a long way to walk.

If one strictly had to get from point A to point B, going the 60 mile distance would be physically demanding but logistically uncomplicated. But the 3-Day does so much more than get you from point A to point B. It takes you on a carefully plotted course to make the experience of covering all those miles an unforgettable one. Creating a 60-mile route that is safe, interesting, varied (yes, those hills are included on purpose), pit stop-friendly, packed with incredible photo ops, bursting with local landmarks and must-sees, and safe (yes, I said safe twice, because it’s THAT important), is a feat of event-planning wizardry. And the remarkable thing is that it’s done so seamlessly that when you’re walking, you don’t even think twice about it. You marvel at the sights and sounds, you snap pictures (safely, from the side of the path, naturally), you bond and form lifelong memories with your fellow walkers and all the while, you’re just following the arrows.

Arizona Day 2

One foot in front of the other. Repeat x 60 miles.

Walk This Way (Then That Way, Then Keep Going) – Let’s talk about the route arrows. I have a very special place in my heart for those arrows. They don’t just provide me direction as a walker, they provide me strength. On one of my early 3-Days many years ago, I got into the habit of touching each arrow that I passed. Just reaching out and tapping it, like giving it a little high-five to say, “Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, my round friend.” I still do it, all these years later. If there’s an arrow that’s out of my reach, I put my hand out anyway, for an “air five,” or have a teammate touch it for me. It’s kind of a silly tradition, but I’m serious when I say that I get power and motivation from it. It’s 3-Day magic, I tell you.

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

This a-way!

My arrow-lovin’ ways eventually inspired me to sign up for the Route Marking crew, which I will do for the third time this year in Seattle. This crew team is responsible for putting up and taking down hundreds of directional arrows, but you never see them at work. They’re like invisible arrow fairies who leave a perfectly charted course for you to wake up to in the morning. Walkers getting lost? Not on our watch.

marking the route

Have zip-ties, will travel.

Everyone’s a Winner – One thing I really love about the 3-Day is that it’s not a race. I’ve done a handful of 5K or 10K running races in my years, and I know how demoralizing it can feel to be passed by other runners (and believe me, I get passed a LOT). The 3-Day is different. Your pace is whatever you need it to be. No one is being timed or keeping track of their “personal best,” and there’s no shiny medal waiting for the first person to cross the finish line. On the contrary, we roll out a hero’s welcome for the LAST walker who comes in each day (but more about that in another post). You walk the speed you feel comfortable walking. If someone passes you, it’s usually with a smile and a friendly word of encouragement (unless they’re just really trying to get to the next porta-potty, in which case, we’re okay with letting them stay focused).

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

No rush. Enjoy the journey!

Arizona Day 2

Fast, slow, it doesn’t matter. Just keep smiling, and when you’re ready, keep moving!

San Diego Day 1

First or 1001st, everyone on the 3-Day is cheered and welcomed across the finish line.

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