The Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day – Every Step is a Journey

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Welcome to the Insider’s Guide to the 3-Day! If you’re not sure what you’re in for, let us tell you!

If you haven’t read our earlier installments, you can check them out here:

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No one is better qualified to add to our Insider’s Guide than 3-Day Coach Gina, who has walked the Michigan 3-Day, and now leads both the Michigan and Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day as our Crew & Volunteer Coordinator. Gina is also a breast cancer survivor, and deep supporter of every member of our 3-Day family, from walkers to crew to Youth Corps and beyond. She is sharing her personal memories and 3-Day journey with us, in the hopes that her story might inspire others to join our family.

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Getting Ready: 3-Day Fundraising

  • Ask everyone…and then ask again! Never doubt how much family and friends want to support you on your 3-Day journey. For participants, “the ask” isn’t easy, but you are asking for a cause you believe in, so allow donors to see your passion and how much you are willing to do in this fight.
  • Whether or not a person donates, ask them to forward your email onto their family and friends…And watch your donor circle grow. Always remember that follow-up is key!
  • Utilize social media and have fun with it. Try a Ten Dollar, or Twenty Dollar Tuesday, “I am walking for…” Wednesday, High Five Dollar Friday…the possibilities are endless. Create that sense of urgency and enjoy the process of connecting with folks while watching your fundraising grow.
  • Double (even triple) your fundraising dollars with a matching gift. Check out our matching gift page at The3Day.org/Matching for detailed instructions. Simply ask every donor, “Does your company participate in a matching gift program?” That $25 donation might become a $50 donation!

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Getting Ready: 3-Day Training

  • Follow the suggested training program and make it your own. Given everyone’s busy schedules, it might seem daunting when you look at the entire 24-week or 16-week training schedule. Take it week by week and get the miles in when you can.
  • A lunchtime or evening walk (once it’s not so hot!) is always good. You’ll probably find that the weekends will be when you train the most, but this will differ from person to person. For me, it was important that I saw my mileage increase each week, not necessarily my number of training walks.
  • Look for official training walks being led in your area at org/TrainingWalks. These are led by 3-Day training walk leaders and are an excellent way to train, meet fellow walkers and have some good ‘ole 3-Day fun!

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And then it begins…Friday morning on the 3-Day

You cannot deny the buzz in the air the morning of the Opening Ceremony. Excitement, nervousness, anticipation, lots of moving pieces…And lots of PINK! Get your tissues ready (or at least I did!) once the Opening Ceremony begins, because it’s an experience like no other. An experience that sets the stage for your three days ahead.

Taking on 60 miles!

To say you are fully supported on the 3-Day route is an understatement.

From the pit stops, where you refuel and rehydrate to the Porta-Potties, where you…well, you know! The cheering stations where families, the community and strangers who are now friends come out to cheer on walkers and sprinkle encouragement through their words and signs.

I must give a shout out to our all-volunteer and all-around amazing Crew. Crew members commit to all three days like the walkers and experience a different kind of 3-Day. You will find Crew around every turn, and at camp, making sure walkers are fully supported. At pit stops, the lunch stop, and patrolling the route on motorcycles and bicycles. Crew sets up camp, hauls participants’ gear. Medical Crew makes sure participants are happy and healthy all weekend.

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One of the high points for me personally is seeing the Youth Corps, our friends in yellow. These are youth who commit to serving the walkers throughout the weekend. To see these kids and teens giving their time and energy to the fight against breast cancer really speaks to our future.

If I can sum up my experience it’s that I remember, at times, thinking, “I cannot walk another step.” Then I would look around, see my fellow walkers, and the support, and I would realize that walking is the easy part and we keep going because hearing the words, “you have breast cancer” will forever change a person’s life.

Camp: A More Than Pink Sleepover!

Camp is otherwise known as the fabulous “pink bubble.” Coming from a non-camper, this is not the camping I would normally think of. The word “glamping” is much more like it, and even then, I am always amazed the detail that goes into making sure 3-Day participants are made to feel welcome and comfortable all weekend.

Your pink tent will be your home away from home, and you’ll eat a yummy breakfast and dinner in the dining tent. My advice is to immerse yourself in the 3-Day campsite; it’s really part of your experience. Watch the camp show, visit 3-Day Main Street, and shower in the shower trucks. It’s a memorable experience like no other.

Just like on the route, you are fully supported and won’t want to leave this sweet bubble of love and kindness. Alas, Sunday will arrive, you’ll bid farewell to camp, pack up your belongings and be reunited with your gear at the Participant Finish Area.

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Closing Ceremony and the morning after…

For me, the last day of the 3-Day is bittersweet. Walking into the Closing Ceremony is indescribable. Since each participant has their own reason for participating in the 3-Day, each participant might have a different feeling when they take their final steps of the Victory Walk from the Participant Finish Area into the Closing Ceremony.

I always feel the walkers and crew of the 3-Day are part of a special group, bound together by their passion, enthusiasm and drive to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. I will never give up, and you will feel this drive and passion from the moment you register for your 3-Day journey, too!

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The Insider’s Peek at the Twin Cities Route

In February of this year, we treated our readers to The Insider’s Peek at the 3-Day Route, where we gave you a detailed look at the planning, work and execution that goes into creating the routes for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® events. While that two-part Insider’s Peek was full of tasty details, it was still kind of broad in the sense that it didn’t explicitly address the particulars of any specific Komen 3-Day location.

Until now!

It seemed like a natural progression to go from an expansive overview of 3-Day® route-planning in general, to a more pinpointed look at each of the seven 3-Day events individually. So I’ve been picking the brains of the event planning team and local coaches, to get the skinny on what walkers can expect. Sharing this information early in the year will help walkers prepare for their events, train for what’s to come and have a few exciting high points to look forward to.

We’ll be publishing one of these location-specific peeks for every 2015 3-Day event (we kicked off the series with the Michigan peek a couple of weeks ago), and today, the Twin Cities 3-Day is in the spotlight. Here’s what the Event Planning Manager Kendra and Local Events Coach Stephanie had to say:

  • Will there be any major changes to the route from last year? Kendra shared, “No major changes to the route from 2014. However, walkers can expect a direction reversal on Day 2.” Stephanie added, “There’s also a new Closing Ceremony site this year.” (Click here for a recap of the 2014 Twin Cities event, including route highlights, as well as the 2014 Twin Cities Journey Map.)susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog twin cities 2015 route
  • What, if any, geographical challenges does the Twin Cities route present (i.e., are there hills? Sections with no shade? Portions of the route that sweep vans can’t access easily?) Stephanie, who you will often find joining local Twin Cities 3-Dayers for training walks, said, “The Twin Cities 3-Day route, for the most part, is pretty flat, but there are a few hills after lunch on Day 2 and again on Day 3 towards the end of the route. You will definitely want to include some hill training over the next few months.” But she’s extremely confident in her walkers’ abilities: “Nothing too major though that tough Twin Cities 3-Dayers can’t handle!” Kendra agreed on all points, and added, “We’ve experienced some hot 3-Day weekends in Minnesota over the last couple years, so walkers should come prepared with a hat and sunscreen and drink plenty of water throughout the weekend.”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog twin cities 2015 route
  • Any specific highlights/locations that walkers can look forward to seeing along the way? From Stephanie: “Day 1 will take our walkers around some of the beautiful lakes that Minneapolis has to offer. They’ll pass by a favorite Twin Cities attraction, The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden – a great photo op! Here you’ll also find gorgeous views of the Minneapolis skylines and the Basilica of St. Mary.  Lunch is served in downtown Minneapolis at Loring Park and it’s always fun to see all the pink walking through the heart of the city.” Kendra continues, “Day 2 swaps the action of the city for the quietness of the suburbs. There are some great trails and neighborhoods to take in. Day 3 is a good mix of suburban and rural as walkers make their way into downtown St. Paul, for a Closing Ceremony on the shores of the Mississippi River.”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog twin cities 2015 route
  • Any other information you can provide about the overall “essence” of the Twin Cities route? Stephanie and Kendra, who both live in the Twin Cities area, are quick to brag about their community: “The Twin Cities 3-Day has a reputation for having tremendous community support along our route, and we are very proud of this. It’s a great showcase of two vibrant metropolitan cities and the natural beauty that surround them.”susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk blog twin cities 2015 route

The Bottom Line: Twin Cities walkers should plan on working a few hills into their training, and should prepare themselves as much as possible for walking in hot weather (and meanwhile, we’ll continue to keep our fingers crossed for a mild weekend forecast). Aside from that, they should be sure to free up lots of memory on their phones and cameras so that they can capture the picture-perfect beauty of the Twin Cities.

The Insider’s Take: Yes, Kendra and Stephanie, as the local experts on the Twin Cities route, are the ultimate insiders, but I’ve walked in the Twin Cities, and my biggest take-away was that it was the most naturally beautiful route I’ve seen. It seemed like we didn’t turn a corner without coming head-on with another gorgeous lake, park, or riverfront pathway (There were bald eagles along the Mississippi, people. Bald eagles!). Was it hot? Heck yeah it was, but there were also wonderful supporters around every corner handing out popsicles, frozen grapes or cool face wipes; and the Twin Cities 3-Day was where we discovered the Orange Shirt Drinking Game, a guaranteed way to stay hydrated. The route didn’t strike me as particularly hilly, especially compared to other 3-Day routes I’ve walked, but I could see how someone might be in for a shock if they didn’t do any training on hills.

Still have questions about the Twin Cities 3-Day route? Call your Twin Cities 3-Day coach Eileen at 800-996-3DAY (select option 8 for Twin Cities), or email twincitiescoaches@the3day.org.

The Insider’s Peek at the 3-Day Route – Part 2

Thanks for coming back to this special Insider’s Guide to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, friends! We’re halfway through a deep dive into the ins-and-outs of planning the Komen 3-Day route. I’m a walker, like many of you, and for years I’ve wondered about what exactly goes into the monumental endeavor of routing this three-day, 60-mile monster of an event. So I asked.

In case you missed Part 1, start with it here. When we left off, the Event Planning Managers (EPMs) were plotting out a route that highlights the most iconic scenery each 3-Day® city has to offer, while also solidifying the major sites (camp, ceremonies, and all the stops along the route) and connecting those dots with a well-conceived route that’s both safe and interesting.susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog route

Getting Friendly With the Locals – In a perfect world, we would just say, “We want this site and this route,” but as we’ve demonstrated, it’s way more complicated than that. Is the site available on the event weekend? Can the route safely accommodate all of our walkers? Is there construction planned 10 months from now in a site that looks fine today? This is where local jurisdictions—law enforcement, local governments—come in and work with us to approve routes. The police departments typically have the biggest say, though we also get input from fire departments, health departments and city managers. One issue can change everything. One PD might say, “We don’t have the resources to support you, and without that you can’t walk here,” so then we have to rethink. Sometimes, permitting is needed just to be able to walk on some streets (even though we don’t close off streets or sidewalks the way, say, a marathon would). Cities can say no. So those conversations are happening, and things begin lining up. As we get closer to the event, the EPMs coordinate the finer details including the actual turn-by-turn, street-by-street route directions and obtaining required special permits.

Can you see why that all would take at least a year?

The 3-Day is Coming, the 3-Day is Coming! – Often, our permits will require us to go into the community and present notice. But beyond that, we make an effort to visit the communities and neighborhoods we’ll be walking through anyway, because we WANT them to know about the 3-Day! About 3-4 weeks prior to each event, the local coach and the volunteer coordinator organize a Street Team Day, where volunteers come out and help canvas the route to alert the businesses and residents along the way that we’ll be coming through. They pass out flyers to businesses located on the side of the street the walkers will be walking down and talk to folks to let them know what to expect and how they can show their support; in the majority of areas that we walk through year after year, folks know about the 3-Day far in advance of Street Team Day and are already planning incredible ways to show their love. (Incidentally, if any of you are interested in helping with Street Team Day in your 3-Day city, contact the coaches to find out how to help!)susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog route

Mileage Anxiety – I’m terrible at math. But even being arithmetically-challenged, I know that there have been times throughout my years on the 3-Day that I’ve done some simple calculation and was left scratching my head—Day 1: 19 miles; Day 2: 21 miles; Day 3: 16 miles…wait a second, that doesn’t equal 60!

So here’s the deal, according to Sarah, and it makes great sense when you think about it: we try and make the route as close to 60 miles as possible, but there are many things that dictate how many miles we can do each day. The amount of daylight hours is the biggest factor. You’ll notice that on the San Diego 3-Day, the total mileage is less than 60, while the Twin Cities 3-Day is just about on target with 60 miles total. This is because we have copious amounts of daylight in the summer in Minnesota, but very limited amounts in late November in Southern California. On top of that, it’s worth noting that with all the added steps around pit stops, camp and ceremonies, it really does total 60 or more. Truly.susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog route

The Event Planning team maps the route using Google Earth, which is arguably the most accurate and reputable mapping technology available. But these days, when everyone has a GPS tracker on their phone or their wrist, we sometimes get folks telling us that our reported mileage (the route card saying that pit stop 2 is at mile 6.4, for example) is different than what their tracker reports. In my experience with those trackers, they are never 100% accurate, or 100% consistent with each other. I’ve been on walks with teammates, where we’re all tracking on our own phones—sometimes using the same app!—and we all get slightly different distances reported. And don’t forget that it’s also counting the steps you take within a route stop (yes, doing the Cupid Shuffle in the middle of the lunch stop might add half a mile onto your tracker).

Okay, Let’s Get Real: Why Doesn’t the Route Ever Change? – Look, I get it. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. I’ve walked in San Diego four times, and four times, the route has been exactly the same (or so I thought). And even though that route is spectacular, after a few go-rounds, I’ve found myself wondering if it was ever going to be any different. How hard could it be, I asked myself, to just move this pit stop over there, or walk along those streets instead of these ones? I know I’m not the only walker who has felt this kind of restlessness with a seemingly-unchanging route. Keeping a route fresh and exciting to returning walkers is a prospect that becomes more and more challenging every year that passes, simply because there are more and more collective years of experience building up in everyone’s memories. Naturally, someone who has walked a particular route five or eight or a dozen times is going to see it differently than someone who’s walking it for the first or second time.

But the truth is, even the most long-standing 3-Day routes have had portions—big and small—changed throughout the years, based on both participant feedback and various changes within our jurisdictions (i.e. construction, police input, etc.). The 3-Day is well-established in all of our current locations, which is wonderful, right? We started with a planning process that was extremely intense, time-consuming and costly. But over the last 10+ years, we have been able to efficiently hone that process while also evolving the events by getting feedback, talking with jurisdictions, holding focus groups, etc. Over the years, the 3-Day really has developed events to include what the participants want, because that’s what they’re telling us. They want trails, residential, city, iconic spots, great scenery. Not everyone wants the same thing, but by providing variety, we’re able to hit the majority of “wants”.susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer walk blog route

I understand the questions of wanting change, because I’ve asked them too. But knowing better now what it takes to plan these events, I really can see how difficult, time-inefficient and expensive it would be to do a major overhaul of any event. Also, I can really respect that every 3-Day event is what it is based on a lot of tweaking. Changes are being made, even if they’re not always noticed. Sometimes the changes are big, like what we saw in Michigan and Twin Cities last year, and sometimes they’re small, like reversing the entrance/exit to a pit stop.

The Journey and the Goal – One of the things I love the most about the 3-Day community is its passion. We LOVE our 3-Day. It’s not just an event, it’s part of who we are. Being so close to a thing and caring so much about it, we naturally want it to be the absolute best it can be, and I have to say that, from where I sit, the 3-Day is pretty darn close to perfection. And even the things that I may be inclined to gripe about are things that I understand are that way for a reason.

Besides, the rock-solid foundation that the 3-Day’s entire existence is built on isn’t some obligation to give me a pretty route to walk along for three days, it’s a promise and a commitment to do whatever we’re humanly capable of doing to put an end to breast cancer.

However much or little the journey to get us there changes, that goal doesn’t change.

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