Can you really be this close to the end of your Susan G. Komen 3-Day®? Your weary feet and legs say yes, but your heart says no way. It feels as though Friday morning—when you arrived in the pre-dawn darkness, dropped off your bag, met up with your teammates and felt the sun rise over the beautiful Opening Ceremony before taking your first steps—was an eternity ago. And yet, you can’t believe it’s almost over. These brief few days have been packed with so many memories and experiences that as you near the finish line, you find yourself overwhelmed with emotion once again.
I’ve crossed the finish line as a Komen 3-Day walker fifteen times, and the impact of that one simple experience is as strong and profound now as it was the first time. Back then, my emotional response to completing the 3-Day® was mostly based on the personal amazement and pride that I felt over physically accomplishing the 60-mile walk. But in the many years since then, the impassioned response I feel as I finish the 3-Day is so much more than “I did it!” It’s also, “Look at all of these people who did it!”
I look around at the faces of my fellow walkers and crew members. I see journeys that are so much longer and greater than three days.
I see young people who had to learn about the devastation of cancer too early in their lives…
…older people who have seen so much in their lifetimes and wear their years like a badge of honor…
…friends who helped and supported each other in ways that go deeper than mere friendship…
…determined fighters, taped up like mummies, who pile out of a sweep van 2 blocks from the end just so they can cross the finish line on their own two throbbing feet…
I see true heroes.
I link arms with my teammates, all of us in some combined state of crying/laughing/cheering/limping and we cross together.
The walk is over, but the energy is sustained here in the Participant Finish Area. There’s music and noise and flowers, non-stop cheering and a long “human tunnel” of fellow walkers who have already made it to the end, and choose to STILL be on their feet—giving individual high fives to ever single new walker who comes in. My teammates and I give each other hugs, find a bathroom (some things never change…), pick up our Victory T-shirts, take more pictures, join the others in cheering the finishing walkers in and eventually find a place to sit and take off our shoes for a few minutes (but also, get up and dance when a song we like comes on). Soon, we will be lining up and processing out of this waiting area and into the Closing Ceremony.
The march into Closing is a victory parade, and the streets are lined with the loved ones who supported us and our fellow walkers the other 362 days of the year. People hold up signs, take pictures and videos, and point with excitement when they see their walker going by. There are more hugs, more tears, and we’re not even into the Closing Ceremony yet!
The Closing Ceremony, like so much of the 3-Day, is hard to put into words. It’s a celebration of all that we have achieved on our 3-Day journey. The walkers enter, followed by the crew, and then the survivors. In a beautifully moving tribute to this last group, everyone holds up a shoe. I love this part. This shoe salute wasn’t something that was scripted or prompted. It was a gesture that just started spontaneously somewhere along the way, many years ago, and quickly became an honored tradition in every 3-Day city, another small example of what makes the 3-Day so special.
The Closing Ceremony is a brief, moving end cap to a weekend celebrating the everyday pink warriors, who, for 3 days, went way above expectations, becoming true heroes in the lives of everyone touched by breast cancer.
The walk is over, but the journey is not ending. I come back to the 3-Day every year because our work isn’t done, and because those 3 days are like fill-up for my soul. Like me, you will take all of the things you have experienced in these unforgettable 3 days and carry them with you into the world. And the world will be better for it.
And with that, our Insider’s Guide series comes to an end too. I’ve done my little part to give you lots of details about what to expect on the 3-Day, but it’s impossible for me to capture what the whole experience will be like for you. One “insider’s” view may be different from another’s, but the overall theme is the same – the 3-Day changes your life, in ways that no one but you can know.
We hope you will join us.
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