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!