Behind the Scenes: What Goes Into Planning Those 60 Miles?

Discover the world behind planning the Susan G. Komen 3-Day! Ever wondered what it takes to create a breathtaking route that inspires and motivates walkers to keep going? Or how to rally the community to help ensure the 3-Day experience gets better year after year? Our behind-the-scenes look will give you an exclusive glimpse into the passionate efforts and tireless dedication that goes into planning 60 miles.  

Planning a three-day, 60-mile experience isn’t easy, but the hard work and thoughtfulness that goes into every aspect is what helps make the 3-Day a magical event for all. Every year, the 3-Day takes over major metropolitan cities like Boston, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, San Diego, and more, to walk 60 miles towards finding the cures for breast cancer. One of the many benefits of spending 60 miles on your feet is how the 3-Day route showcases each host city we call home for a few days each year. 

Planning that route is a year-long effort and involves many people to get our routes ready for our crew and participants. A lot goes on behind the scenes! 

We asked coaches Heather, Sara and Staci, our amazing Crew & Volunteer Coordinator Kristin, as well as our Event Planning Manager, Meredith, to give us an in-depth look at how they work to make every step of the 60-mile journey challenging but fun, all while showing off the best sights of our host cities. 

Planning the Route 

We work very closely with all of the city jurisdictions and local sites to plan our routes, while not being disruptive to the community. Finding 60 miles of unique walking requires the participation and cooperation of multiple local partners. We have to be mindful of other events and activities happening in any particular area of our route, while making sure the experience for our participants is the best possible outcome. The overall considerations for planning the route include but are not limited to: making sure each day is around 20 miles, there is a park or some sort of available space every few miles for a pit stop, applying for permits from each city to allow us to walk, stop and eat lunch etc. on city grounds and make sure each big intersection we cross is manned by route safety. 

Elements of the 3-Day route look and feel unique to each of our host cities, because each city is different. Scenic pathways, tourist attractions and famous areas are primarily what we use as anchors to plan our routes, while also being mindful of construction and other factors. As we make our plans, there are always trade-offs, negotiations and compromises. It’s a complicated puzzle with a lot of moving parts. For example, we’ve enjoyed showcasing Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain on our route. However, this year the Taste of Chicago will be staged at Grant Park which means the city will require our route be elsewhere. And, we’ve loved sending walkers through the picturesque Boston Public Garden in years past, but the City of Boston no longer allows our route to traverse the Public Garden, so we walk through the Boston Common instead. 

Some parts of the route aren’t exactly scenic, but are unavoidable, like the crossing over the San Diego River after leaving the Crown Point Shores campsite in San Diego. Each year we work with the San Diego Police Department to determine if there is an alternate solution to this unattractive section of route. Unfortunately, due to lack of sidewalks and denials on nearby road closures, the Morena Blvd./San Diego River Bikeway is the only option to walk from our campsite into Old Town. To offset this, we work with the San Diego Police Department to clear the area before walkers arrive and will continue to remain vigilant in asking for police presence while walkers are coming through the Bikeway. For the Denver 3-Day this year, we’d love to do a forced SAG (a bus ride to a different part of the city/nearby neighborhood) to Red Rocks, but surrounding parks are not available to serve as route stops. Also in Denver, the city’s most popular trails are not offered to events after 11 a.m. because of heavy usage by city residents. 

As we work to plan the route, you all should start preparing for it! Each city has its own challenges, including hills, stairs or lots of stoplights. Make sure you include all of these things in some of your training walks so that you can be prepared for the route! 

Check the 3-Day website frequently for locally hosted training walks in your area. This is a great opportunity to go on different routes, get some miles under your belt and meet more people in the Pink Bubble. 

Involving the Community 

Support from the local community is an important component of the 3-Day and a specific focus of our 3-Day coaches. The coaches aim to engage businesses along the route, nearby school and volunteer groups, as well as the family, friends and co-workers of participants. Starting with a list of each day’s route stops and the turn-by-turn route directions, it’s our goal to place as many support groups as possible to offer fun distractions, help the miles go more quickly and ensure as many memories as possible are packed in.  

We repeatedly hear that it’s community support along the route that enhances the entire weekend experience, and YOU can help! Ask your network to volunteer for a private or mobile cheer station. Connect your coach with the band leader, a cheer captain, youth group leaders, etc. If you’ve ever thought, “My favorite local business should know that the 3-Day is coming to our city, because I know they’d love to support us – tell your coach!” We will reach out to them and let them know how they can help. If you’re travelling to the event with family members or friends, we can help find them the perfect opportunity and location to cheer from. We promise they will have a great time and feel the love from our pink bubble family!  

Leading the Way 

Our Route Team works tirelessly to make sure the route is as clearly marked as possible. We never want a 3-Dayer to get lost! However, because we mark the route the day before, the signage is vulnerable to changes. 

Last year, for example, Chicago 3-Day signs were removed or altered by members of the public in several locations, causing confusion and frustration for walkers. Our Route Marking team, who is always on standby to handle these kinds of situations, sprung into action and reposted signage immediately. However, if walkers are ever unsure about their location, please call the 800 number on your event credential, which rings our on-event Command Center, to ensure you are heading in the right direction.  

If you have feedback on any part of your 3-Day route, ideas for community involvement, or anything about your experiences, include those in your responses to the survey we send out after the event! We read every single comment we receive and often make changes based on that feedback. Additionally, we work hard to make sure every aspect of your 3-Day experience is the best it can be. 

We are putting in that work now, because we know how important your 60 miles are. Every step you take is important to us because every step gets us closer to a world without breast cancer. Thank YOU for walking and crewing with us, for giving your time and energy, and for being the best part of the 3-Day experience! 

The Journey to $250K – Riley W.’s Story

Join us in congratulating Riley W., a dedicated 3-Day walker who has raised more than $250,000 in the fight against breast cancer.  

How long have you been participating in the 3-Day and how many events have you done?  

2022 marked my 12th 3-Day. I count the Covid years, as I did my own 3-Day by myself in Nashville in 2020. Then in 2021, my teammate Lyndell flew to Nashville and we did 3-Day Nation together. 

What is your connection to breast cancer?  

I first became involved with the 3-Day in 2010 when my sister needed someone to walk with. At that time, we had already lost my grandmother to breast cancer and my aunt was in remission. My cousin also had been diagnosed, but like her mom, was doing well. Soon after our walk in Philly in 2010, my sister was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. She fought long and hard for just over a year and a half before she lost her battle. I had a woman I was super close with who I referred to as my second “ma” for many years. She was diagnosed a few months after my sister. I remember asking her if they had checked to see if it was triple negative; she had no idea what that was. But two weeks later, she too was diagnosed with triple negative. Two years later, she lost her battle.  

Why do you think it’s important to raise money for this cause?  

Many reasons! Many women {and men} are living longer now with new drugs and treatments. Aside from the incredible research Susan G. Komen does and the help that is given to those who need it during their journeys with breast cancer, it brings awareness. People see why I am in a war against breast cancer and how many people I have lost to it. 

What makes you go above and beyond the fundraising minimum requirement?  

One of the things I always think (and sometimes tell people!) who say they don’t have any money to give… what if that Starbucks you bought this morning is the last $5 that Komen needed to find a cure? Would you have $5 for that? Because I think that’s how close we are. Every dollar brings us one step closer and helps so many along the way.  

What are your best fundraising tips?  

ASK EVERYONE! I don’t care if they’re long-standing friends/donors or I meet someone at the grocery store. Tell people your story. Know where the money goes to be able to quickly explain it to those who are skeptical, and we all know those people are out there. I also wear breast cancer awareness shirts when I start the big push for raising money.  

Any advice you have for those struggling to meet their fundraising goal?  

Literally, ask everyone. You’d be surprised how many folks want to help. Ask your nail or hair salon if you can put a bucket out with your story on it. Ask your neighborhood. Get your neighbors to do a big yard sale with you and proceeds can go to your walk ― or you offer to run the whole thing if they donate whatever they don’t want to you. You could make $500 easily in a morning, or more! Ask your donors to ask their friends if anyone they know or love has ever been touched by breast cancer. And if so, if they would contribute. I have found out that people don’t donate because we don’t ask. 

What does the 3-Day Pink Bubble mean to you?  

My sister LOVED the Pink Bubble. So for me, it’s a sense of family, it’s a battlefield and it’s a home. We are all warriors but when we come together, I feel like everyone we’re walking for is walking with us, celebrating with us, cheering us on. That’s the vision I see in my head when I think I cannot walk one more step.  

What’s something you want the Pink Bubble to know about you?  

I’ll be walking until we find the cures. Or I can’t walk anymore. Whichever one comes first. I really hope it’s the first one! I’m on a mission to destroy breast cancer in all its ugly forms. 

Congratulations on such an amazing accomplishment, Riley! Thank you for your commitment to the 3-Day and the fight against breast cancer. Read about other amazing walkers who have raised $250,000 here. 

March Pink Bubble Story of the Month

Nominated by his daughter, Michelle, a longtime 3-Day participant Bill W. shares why the 3-Day and the Pink Bubble mean so much to him. 

How did you get involved with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day? 

Some co-workers of mine did the Komen 3-Day in 2005. I was interested but didn’t know if I could walk 60 miles. They signed up again in 2006 and I took the plunge and did my first one. I have been involved as a walker, crew, staff or team support every year since then.   

How many 3-Days have you participated in?  

I have participated in 19 3-Day events as either a walker, crew or staff. I participated in 3-Day Nation in 2021, too.   

What’s your story? 

I got involved because of my co-workers who did the 3-Day in 2005. I thought it would be a good challenge for me and now I can’t quit. The Pink Bubble gets in your blood. I have made so many friends throughout the 3-Day and have lost some friends, too. One dear friend is the push behind me, Rennie B. We lost Rennie on April 17, 2015. She was no different than a lot of other ladies fighting this battle, but she was a dear close friend of mine. I know she had down days, but she never showed them in public. Her smile and laughter would light up your darkest days. And of course, we all know Mamie, the 3-Day caboose. I met Mamie on a training walk when she was going through treatment and her head was as slick as a cue ball, but she wasn’t going to let this disease get her. She was training to do the 60-mile walk while undergoing treatment. On Thursday night before the Dallas/Fort Worth walk started, our team would have dinner, and I usually had eight to ten walkers spend the night at my house in Plano, because the opening ceremony was in the area. Mamie’s husband, Tom, would always bring her and others over and stay for the team dinner. At dinner, Tom would come up to me with Mamie and place her hand in mine and tell me she was mine for the next three days. On Sunday after the Closing Ceremony I would give Mamie back to Tom. This is how Mamie became my 3-Day wife. I also have to include the RHP, Red Headed Pest, aka Sharon L. Our friendship over the years and miles has grown and grown. We don’t see each other often but we talk several times a week, to keep in touch with each other. These are a few of my Pink Survivor Sisters. There are many more reasons and stories but when I think of the 3-Day, these are the friends I think of first and some of the memories I will always cherish. These memories are what pink dreams are made of! I am very fortunate to not have any immediate family members affected by this disease. My daughter and son-in-law have been very supportive of me in this challenge. After they graduated college, my daughter Michelle wanted to do the walk. She has done several with me, and her husband Stephen has been there supporting us. In 2021, we raised enough money so that Stephen could walk San Diego with us, so we had a family affair ― Stephen, Michelle and I all walked the hills and coastal paths of San Diego.   

What does the 3-Day and the Pink Bubble mean to you?  

The 3-Day and the Pink Bubble, you can’t separate them. They are part of all these answers, but it is all the camaraderie, the friends, and the experience of so many people coming together for one cause from all over the world. We don’t care what your religion is, where you’re from, the color of your skin ― we are here for one cause and that is to defeat breast cancer. We are all in it together. This isn’t a race, we help each other, we laugh together, we cry together, we walk together, and we celebrate together. We are one big happy pink family. So many of us only see each other one to four times a year, but the love that radiates from this gathering is unreal. You can’t fully explain it to an outsider; you have to experience it for yourself. You can get a taste from the cheering stations, but that is not the full effect of the Pink Bubble. I don’t know if there are words that truly describe the Pink Bubble/3-Day/Pink Family. It is something you dream about and get all warm and fuzzy inside. Before I retired, my co-workers would comment early on in October “It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; you can tell by how Bill is acting.” I took that as a compliment.   

We’ve seen the big pink wig and decorated bra you’ve worn on event before. Is there a story behind those items? 

I like to be a little crazy, ok a lot crazy. The first year I participated, I bought a cheap pink Halloween wig on sale the night before the walk started. I have worn that wig every 3-Day. That was the start of what my pink collection is now, and me becoming known as PHG ― Pink Hair Guy. I have had walkers and friends give me wigs and sunglasses. Several years ago, at a Dallas Cowboys game, the one where they honored breast cancer survivors, there was a guy in a pink suit and a big pink afro wig. One of my friends thought it was me and sent me a picture he took. I immediately thought, “I have to have that wig,” and thanks to Google, now I do. It has become a mainstay since 2015, I believe. I would decorate pink bras to wear and would always be looking for something new or different. One day I was walking through Target and spotted some pink cones on a clearance shelf. I got a pair and the wheels started turning on how they would be my new bra. The next year I changed to pin wheels, and I love that they can spin in the wind. What is the reason behind it? Just being crazy and having fun. Yes, it is a job to walk with that on, but nothing like going through chemo! I love it when I surprise a walker with my outfit, the laughter, the smiles, they make it all worthwhile. If my outfits make one walker, crew, or stalker forget the pain they are having for a minute or two, then it has been worth every drop of sweat from wearing the wig.   

Why do you think it’s important to raise money for this cause?  

We have lost too many people to this disease to not to keep fighting and raising money for the cause. Cancer is the number two cause of death in the U.S. We can’t not continue to raise money to find the cures! 

What’s something you want the Pink Bubble to know about you? 

Well, I’m pretty transparent, so you get what you see. I hope if you spend time with me, whether it’s walking, crewing, on staff or just sitting around, that I made you smile or laugh a little and left you feeling a little better than before we spent time together. I’m no different than anybody else. We all just want to leave our fellow man a little better off because we were there.   

Do you know a 3-Day all-star who should be featured as a Pink Bubble Story of the Month? Nominate them here: Check out our other Pink Bubble Story of the Month features here.