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 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 grahamwiches. 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 in 2013. 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 (or even an orange sign along the route), 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 16 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 grahamwich 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.

Fantastic Ride – So what happens if you can’t quite make it to the next pit stop? What if that pain in your hip is just too much to bear? What if the heat of the day, or that last hill climb has left you feeling a little weakened, and you need a (literal) pick-me-up? The 3-Day has you covered there too (seriously, is there anything they haven’t thought of?). The wonderful team of sweep vans is there to rescue you. These vans drive along the route all day, checking on the walkers, and are ready to pick up anyone who needs to stop. These are not just boring, glorified taxis, people. They are elaborately decorated, themed and musically accompanied “mobile love and encouragement units.” Sometimes, walkers feel intensely disappointed if they have to rely on a sweep van, but I can’t emphasize enough that there is NO shame in taking a sweep. In fact, a lot of people would agree that you haven’t fully experienced the 3-Day until you’ve taken a ride in a sweep van. They are driven by caring crew members who will waste no time in telling you how beautiful and awesome you are, and how proud you should be for every step that you’ve taken. Even that last step up into their van.

Dallas Day 2

Need a lift? Sweeps, to the rescue!

TDA sweep

A ride in a sweep van is just another part of the journey

Community Support: Bring it ON! – For months before the 3-Day trucks ever roll into town, the event-planning team and local 3-Day staff are hard at work creating a route that will showcase the best of the cities and towns we’ll walk through. Part of the planning phase includes reaching out to the communities that the route touches. We work with local jurisdictions (their police and fire departments, park departments, etc.), and contact businesses, schools and churches, and residents who live and work on the route to let them know we’re coming and encourage them to show the walkers some love. The result is an incredible display of support from all corners of the route.

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

Heroes supporting heroes

People decorate their houses with signs, streamers and pink balloons, adorable kids set up lemonade stands in their driveways, high schools send their football teams and pep squads out to the street for high fives and cheers. Businesses on the main streets put out waters and free samples of food, and open their patrons-only bathrooms to walkers (What? Flushing toilets after all? Heaven!). Girl and Boy Scout troops line the sidewalks with bowls of candy. Mobile Cheering Squads (whom we affectionately refer to as “walker stalkers”) paint the windows of their cars and drive along the route, pulling over and parking every few miles to cheer, play music and pass out more treats (remember what I said about this being like a 60-mile buffet? I wasn’t joking.) And all of this is self-initiated awesomeness on the part of these supporters.

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


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

Even the smallest gestures of support have great meaning

Twin Day 2

Dance break! A local drum circle provides the roadside rhythms.

THEN, as if all of that wasn’t enough, the 3-Day also organizes official cheering stations along the route (usually 2 each day). These are locations where friends and families can go to cheer, where they know the walkers will pass through. Imagine turning a corner and seeing hundreds of people, all ages, on their feet, clapping, banging thunder sticks together and blowing whistles, handing out MORE candy, forming a human tunnel of pride, thanks and love for the walkers moving through. I swear, the experience has brought me to tears more than once. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be a celebrity, I imagine that the feeling of going through a cheering station comes pretty close. But this time, you’re “famous” for doing something amazing – bringing hope to a community and to the world.

Twin Day 3

Seeing loved ones at the cheering stations is often just the thing to keep you going.

Tampa Bay Day 2

This. This is why we walk.

Plus, did I mention: free candy?

Next time on the Insider’s Guide—Camp, at last! It’s your home away from home on the 3-Day, and I’ll give you a peek at what you’ll find there.


Want to see the entire Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day? Here are all of the segments:

The Start of Something Beautiful
Pointing, Pacing, and… Motorcycles Wearing Lingerie
Pit Stops and Cheering and Sweeps, Oh My!
3-Day Camp: Just Like a Sleepover, Only More Pink
3-Day Camp: I love the Night Life
3-Day Camp: Happy Glamping on Main Street
Over But Not Ending

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

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