Route Hours, Cabooses, and Sweep Vans, Oh My! Behind the Scenes on the 3-Day Route

If you’ve been out on the 3-Day route before, you’ve likely noticed a bike with a pink flag that follows the line of walkers along the route. The caboose is a 3-Day staff member who rides behind our last walkers to make sure that everyone gets to each pit stop and back to camp in a safe and timely manner. Each year, in our post-event survey we often get questions about route hours, route safety, and sweep vans.

We wanted to take this opportunity to explain why we have some of the route procedures that we do, and also let you know about a change to our sweep vans and busses this year. We had some questions for two of our seasoned cabooses, Coach Gayla of the Dallas/Fort Worth 3-Day, and Robin, the 3-Day Crew & Volunteer Operations Manager, to get the inside scoop on why the caboose and our pit stop and route hours are such an important part of keeping our 3-Day family safe on the route.

Coach Gayla poses on the 2016 Michigan 3-Day with football team members who did an awesome job cheering on our walkers.

Is it “bad” if you end up near the caboose?

Of course it’s not bad to be walking near the caboose! We love company, but we don`t want walkers to lag along the route and get behind schedule. If we ride up behind you while you’re walking we’ll let you know that you’re the last walker and how we’re doing on time. If it looks like your pace won’t get you to the next pit stop before it closes, we’ll present you with options: to pick up the pace (we know this isn’t always possible) or to get in the next sweep van once it arrives. They will gladly give you a lift to the next pit stop so you can rest, refuel and rehydrate before the stop closes.

Have no fear if the caboose is near! Photo graciously provided by walker Robin Collison.

Why do pit stops close at a specific time?

We are required by the city to set up pit stops along the route during certain times of the day. We are not allowed to have them open 24 hours a day for all three days or even the 8-12 hours it takes you to walk the route. So we need to make sure that the walkers move along the route at a comfortable, but continuous pace, so that no one is on the route after dark, or after the pit stops have packed up and left or even after the police and route safety are scheduled to be done for the day. We also want to respect the time of the crew members out on the route so that they can get back to camp to enjoy dinner and festivities, too. You may not know it, but they’ve been out at that pit stop for hours before you came through, setting up and getting ready.

Our amazing crew members need breaks, too!

Why does the route open and close at specific, set times?

The route opens after sunrise and closes before sundown so that the walkers and crew will not be on the route in the dark. These times will vary from city to city, as daylight hours vary during the year. And there are other factors, like in Twin Cities on day one, the route is short so we close the route early, to keep the pace consistent across all three days. In San Diego, we keep the route open after sunset from the last pit stop into camp because it is partially lighted and we hand out flashlights.

A beautiful and balmy morning greets San Diego walkers as they leave camp for Day 2 of the 2016 3-Day.

I don’t like feeling rushed on the route. Can’t we just walk at our own pace and arrive when we want to?

I know it’s no fun to feel like you’re being tailed, but there’s a reason we keep the walkers on a schedule. We ask walkers to average a pace of 3 miles an hour in order to complete each day’s route before dark. In addition to safety reasons, remember, it’s not just you out there―from Pit Stop crew, Route Safety, local police, to Sweep and Route Marking, the volunteers are out there supporting you. We want to respect their time and energy and allow them to get back to camp to enjoy dinner and the festivities, and start again bright and early the next day.

Robin smiles with some of our energetic route support cheerleaders!

I worry that if I take a sweep van, it means I didn’t really “do” all 60 miles. What do you think?

While we know the most important thing is the funds we raise, we totally understand it can be disappointing to you personally if you don’t walk all 60 miles you set out to do. For your own safety, you may need to catch a lift on a sweep van for just a bit here and there, and then get back on the route and walk what you can. We want you to walk in to camp and the Closing Ceremony to experience the joy of the event, so don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion or injury. Your overall event experience will be far less enjoyable if you do.

We’ve also got a helpful hint for you! New this year: the Lunch and Camp Shuttles will be passenger vans instead of busses. If you can’t walk anymore and you’re done for the day, make your way to a pit stop, then catch a Shuttle van to lunch or camp. In the past these shuttles were large busses that used to wait at each route stop until the stop closed. Rather than waiting at each stop until it closes, the Shuttle vans will now leave each stop on a regular schedule. This will allow you to move forward to lunch or camp and keep moving forward more quickly.

There’s no shame in letting us sweep you off your feet.

We hope that helps clear up any questions about why we enforce our route and pit stop hours, and why the caboose and sweep vans are here to help. But if you do have any more questions, ask them below, and we’ll have our friendly coaches reach out to you with a response. Your safety is our number one priority―and we know that working together for a safe and incredible experience means we’re 60 miles closer to ending breast cancer forever.

Promise Ribbons: Tying Together Wishes, Hopes and Dreams

We’re so excited to share a new tradition for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® that debuted in Michigan this past weekend: promise ribbons. Borrowing from the Brazilian ritual of fitas, or wish ribbons, these colorful bands are tied to a person’s wrist in three knots, with the wearer making a special wish or promise as each knot is tied. On the Komen 3-Day, we tie knots to honor the past, create hope for the future and celebrate the steps we’re taking today to end breast cancer.

Susan G. Komen 3-Day Promise Ribbons

Introducing the 3-Day Promise Ribbons

We’re encouraging participants to collect multiple ribbons throughout the 3-Day® and tie them to their wrists or clothing. Walkers and crew members are also encouraged to give the ribbons away to each other or to supporters along the route to symbolize the promises we are making to ourselves and to each other.

We will have eight differently colored ribbons. Four of those will be passed out at specific locations–Opening Ceremony, the entrance to camp on Friday, the entrance to camp on Saturday and at the Participant Finish Area. White ribbons will be available in the Remembrance Tent.

Three other ribbons will be passed out by various groups and people on the 3-Day. Light pink strands will be passed out by Chrissy Mathews from Susan G. Komen®3-Day spokesperson Dr. Sheri, and the local 3-Day staff members. Yellow ribbons will be shared by members of the Youth Corps and blue ribbons will be passed out by the crew in camp and on the route.

Collect all varieties of the 3-Day Promise Ribbons

Collect all varieties of the 3-Day Promise Ribbons

We invite everyone in our 3-Day family to express their own wishes and to put them into action by collecting these ribbons at stops along your journey. Exchange them with others as you share your stories. Post images of your promise ribbons and your messages of hope on social media with the hashtag #3DayPromise.

Our promise ribbons, visible and vibrant throughout each 3-Day event weekend, will create a living “patchwork quilt.” Like each of us, these promise ribbons are individual threads, but when we weave our wishes, hopes, dreams and promises together, we create a greater fabric of unimaginable strength.

Join us, and share your promises in the comments below.

2014 Twin Cities Susan G. Komen 3-Day Wrap Up

This weekend, Twin Cities was filled with the power of pink as the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® passed through the many beautiful neighborhoods of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Though Friday morning started with gloomy skies, the brightness and enthusiasm couldn’t be dampened by the clouds. Dr. Sheri led us through a rallying and an inspiring Opening Ceremony at the Southdale Center in Edina, and from there, Komen 3-Day walkers began their magnificent journey and were soon welcomed to a New Orleans “Mardi Bras” themed pit stop at the beautiful Utley Park.IMG_9144

The Lake Harriet Band Shell was the first cheering station, and the Twin Cities Community came out in full force, complete with cheerleaders, candy, and coffee stations. Onward through Minneapolis, walkers and crew enjoyed a cheering station at the Parade Ice Garden and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Walkers took a lunch break at the lovely Loring Park, and after lunch, it was onwards to another pumped-up cheering station at B.H. Nelson Park, with impressive views of Minneapolis. After an incredible 18.6 miles, walkers and crew arrived at camp in Harvest Park in Maplewood, and during camp show, we got to meet the Twin Cities 3-Day top fundraisers and Milestone Award Winner, in addition to playing some fun games and hearing from an inspirational survivor, Sue N., who motivated us to start strong on Day 2.

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Day 2 on the the 3-Day® route started with balmy skies and cloud cover, and the friendly Twin Cities community came out in full support complete with puppies and babies in pink tutus at Holiday Inn Express cheering station. Vadnais Lake gave sore legs and tired minds some serenity, and a rocking cheering station at Ramsey County Island Park, complete with cheerleaders, helped our walkers put an extra pep in their step. The community came out again to rally walkers at Acorn Park in Roseville, and then, even conquering a few hills before lunch on Gramsie in Shoreview couldn’t dampen the excitement for lunch at Island Lake Elementary School.

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After hydrating and eating, walkers strolled across bridges at the picturesque Gervais Mill Park before heading back to Camp, where we heard from more amazing members of our 3-Day family, including Cassie of team Cassie’s Cups, who’s currently fighting breast cancer for the third time. Her moving story set the stage for Sisters Ashley H. and Nicole L., who again reminded us of the many reasons why we walk.  We ended the night with stars lighting up the sky as the 3-Day Dance Party kicked off, and then it was back into our pink tents for some serious slumber before taking on Day 3.

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A little bit of rain came down before Day 3 officially began, but the skies cleared up just in time to reveal brilliant blue skies, thick humidity, and a shining sun for our last 17.5 miles. The community came out to support the walkers at Northwood Park, passing out popsicles and iced coffee that were joyfully accepted by our strong walkers. The cloud cover lasted through Beaver Lake Park, where a serene lake shimmered in the distance as upbeat music kept our walkers pumped. Next on the route was Indian Mounds Park, and walkers were treated to sweeping views of the St. Paul skyline.

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After a beautiful photo opportunity sitting on Jody’s Couch, a Twin Cities 3-Day landmark for the past nine years, walkers moved on to pit stop 3.  Walkers fueled up and ‘rotated their socks’ at the 3-Day Speedway themed pit stop. The last few miles of the route stretched through beautiful downtown St. Paul, ending at the Minnesota State Capitol where the white and gold dome of the capitol building gleamed in the sun. Our 750 walkers, 225 crew members, and volunteers victoriously marched through the courtyard, and reminded us once again why these 60 miles and 3 days are so very important. The crowd of walkers, crew, volunteers and supporters danced joyously together, and celebrated an incredible $2 million dollars raised.

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