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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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!