Are you curious about what 4K for Cancer is like but want some tips? Interested in running or biking across the country, but are a bit worried about the fundraising or training? Well to help ease some of your worries, we chatted with our 4K alumni for their thoughts on the best tips and tricks for 4K. Here are some of their thoughts to help you prepare and get excited for your own 4K experience.

RIDE TEAMS

Andrew

  • Team: San Francisco

  • Year: 2017

  • Fun Fact: Andrew shares a birthday with Harry Potter.

Ride Your Bike.

Literally. Get on that bike, and stay on it. Don’t worry about going too fast, because the 4K is not a race. Focus on being able to pedal for an extended time, being able to stay as safe as possible, and simply being comfortable about the foundations of road cycling (clipping in and out, turning, signals to cars, etc.).

Do Longer Rides.

I recommend going with a friend or two so you can practice group riding (and it is way more fun). Just be consistent with your riding. The last thing you want is for your butt to adjust to the harsh reality of a road bike saddle during the first week of 4K. Get that out of the way during training.

Get a Professional Road Bike Fitting.

These guarantee your body is fit to your bike for the most efficient pedal stroke as well as the most comfortable position for you. They can be expensive, but your body will thank you.

Social Media & Emails

This is a great and quick way to get the word out. Post about 4K and fundraising anywhere that you have social media. For a more personal approach, send a direct email to family, friends, past professors, co-workers, and anyone you see fit. For posts and emails, I included my personal story, and I think you should too, as it gets the reader more connected to what you are fundraising for.

Restaurant Nights

Reach out to restaurants to see if they would do a day or night, where a portion of the proceeds would be donated to your fundraiser. I know that Chipotle, Qdoba, and Buffalo Wild Wings help a lot. But do some research to see if there are any local companies who would participate too.

Church/Community Presentations

If you are part of a church or community that meets, ask if you can present to their members. Or ask local grocery stores if you can set up a table by the door marketing what you are doing. You could create wristbands or shirts to sell if you wanted.

Email Campaign

Simply emailing my close family, friends, professors and important connections raised over $1,000. Speaking at the local church also raised nearly $1,000.

Cherish Your Team

Your teammates will become your family. They are the one integral part of this whole experience that will keep you going. I’m not sure that there is one person on my team who thinks they could have done it alone. You’ll form friendships unlike any other. We are wild, dynamic, emotional creatures that at the end of the day yearn for connection and purpose. It’s the generosity, friendships and love that is created through this trip that keeps me, personally, hopeful in a world that can sometimes seem to be filled with so much hatred and sadness. As a 4K rider, you are an ambassador for our generation, carrying the message across the country that you still care – and it is that, in particular, which makes you special.

Journal/Blog/Selfie Diary

I would really suggest keeping some sort of record. I brought my laptop and blogged every day for the first 25-ish days and then slowed down with it. It’s hard because after a long day of riding, all you want to do is nap and roll around on the floor, but looking back, I wish I had kept better track of the days/hosts. If anything, take pictures of everything. You’ll thank yourself later.

Take In Every Moment

There aren’t enough words to explain how excited, proud, and overjoyed I am to see new riders like you continue this journey across America for all those who couldn’t…so live it up, and cherist every moment. Every. Single. Moment. ‘Stop and smell the roses,’ as Jeremy Pope would say.

Embrace the Loneliness

It happens to everyone, and it is a crucial component of the 4K experience. The few weeks and months after the 4K were some of the loneliest moments of my life. The 4K is so unique with the amount of time your team spends with one another.  We spent every waking and sleeping moment of 70 days with each another. We went to bed surrounded by the same people, woke up next to the same people, rode our bikes all day with the same people. We did everything with the same people. And it was beautiful.

This explains why we became so close even just one week into the trip. I can’t recall a time that I was alone. I certainly never felt alone. I would recommend embracing this loneliness and allowing all the emotions to be felt. Your time alone will allow you to process what you just experienced. Write about it. Meditate about it. Embrace it. You will come out of it a better person.

Keep the Service Mindset

There are always ways to be involved in the cancer community. You are now always connected to the 4K. Become a mentor and relieve the experience through someone else that you helped. Do local charity rides. Volunteer your time at a cancer center. Don’t lose the service mindset you had during the 4K.

Austin

  • Team: Seattle

  • Year: 2017

  • Fun Fact: Austin was one of his team’s directors!

Don’t Overthink It

Start small and chip away at it. Some training is better than planning the perfect cycling training regime and not doing it because the weather is always a problem, or your bike has a flat. Go for runs, hikes, take the stairs every chance you get, etc. Just get active as much as possible.

Try Spin Classes 

Even though they were WAY more intense than any of the biking during 4K, I enjoyed taking spin classes for 4K training. It was nice to connect with people in the cycling world and to introduce myself after the classes to see if they would help with a fundraiser.

Host an Outdoor Event

I hosted a FriendK (10K) walk/run in a public park that I invited all my friends to. I mapped it out on Strava with my bike to get the distance (close) to 10K and then asked local stores/shops to donate prizes. A lot of them were enthusiastic to donate gift cards, meals, etc. I found it much easier to ask friends to donate for the event when I told them they could win a $100 Lululemon gift card, or a catered lunch from our favorite taco shop! Make sure you announce far ahead and have a rain date. This type of event requires very few approvals from administration and has ZERO overhead. Go for it!

Connect with a Club

I got some good ideas and contacts around campus from the Cancer Society Club. I would recommend reaching out and seeing if you can get in their newsletter or co-host an event.

A 10K Run

My FriendK 10K run! Over $500 raised (all from young adults who don’t have large sums to donate).

Enjoy Every Second.

Take lots of BAMs (beauty appreciation moments). These can be emotional beauty, landscape beauty – there is so much beauty out there if you are looking for it.

Let it All Sink In

Take some time after 4K to let it all sink in. If you filled journals along the way (I highly recommend), read them; look through pictures; share stories; etc. Foster that energy, and then create something to share with people from it. It could be a slideshow that you present to donors as a thank you, a photo book you print and keep on your coffee table to share with friends, a bunch of posts on social media highlighting some of the best moments, anything really.

You did something amazing. Telling stories, sharing lessons learned, and creating artifacts around the trip really made it stick in my mind and treated it as the amazing thing that it was.

RUN TEAMS

Jack

  • Team: Baltimore

  • Year: 2016

  • Fun Fact: Jack is now the coach of Cancer to 5K: Raleigh!

You Can Do This!

I think the first thing to realize is that this is not something that only running gods can do. If you’re brand new to running, but can run (or jog) a 10-minute mile, then you can do it. 4K training is broken up in a way that you’re getting a lot of good opportunities for rest. I was in my best shape at the end of 4K – worst farmer’s tan I’d ever had in my life, but best shape I’ve ever had.

Try Different Training Techniques.

I had the chance to meet some former American track Olympian who came to a run. I said to him, “I’m about to do this run across America, do you have any advice?” He said if you’re going to be training for really long distances, don’t be afraid to implement a run-walk-run method. It’s where you take short walking breaks in between 5- to 7-minute running cycles. It’s the best way to prevent yourself from getting injured.

Use Social Media Strategically

Try to use social media in a way that captures people’s attention. For one post I drew with chalk a big 4K for Cancer logo in my driveway. I created a silly post by laying face-down on top of it. I mean, image aside, it was something funny that caught people’s attention and that’s all that was needed. I think I was in a bit of a unique spot because not as many people utilize social media as much as I think I did, so not everyone would have the best network to reach out to simply on social media. But I tapped into my parents, my family members – they were all really supportive.

Make the Ask

Fundraising is so much easier when you just go straight up to a business and say, “Hi, I’m this person, I am fundraising on behalf of young adults diagnosed with cancer,” or, “I am fundraising for this charity called the Ulman Foundation.” If you just go up to the manager of a store and tell them your spiel and ask for any amount they’re willing to give, normally they give a gift card; then you raffle it off or sell it for less.

Lean on Your Teammates

When you are with the same group of people for over 1,100 hours continuously – I mean, when you are with a group of people for any amount of time like that – there’s bound to be tension sometimes, even with family. Prep by scouting out ways to deal with stress that can be complemented with the run, whether that’s being vulnerable or open with teammates or understanding that your ride or run directors are there to help. Seek the help of others to help you with any stress you experience that day on the 4K or back home.

During our trip, one of our teammates had a family death, so she had to go home for a couple of days. Everyone was supportive of her. We had people who just had a ton of stuff going on at home. So, it’s important to lean on your teammates. Best piece of advice is to be vulnerable. Be open to a great group of people who are around you, because they are going to be your best friends.

Pay it forward.

You get one of the best experiences of your life, so realize that you are a living, breathing example of what that experience can do. It’s been done hundreds of times and you explaining that to your friends and people that you think should do it themselves is important. It’s important for the sustainability of the program, but it’s also important for people in general, especially for young people. I remember for my professional business fraternity, I would recommend people do it here and there all the time because everyone should at least consider it if they are able-bodied. Two others have followed in my foot steps since!

Jamie

  • Team: Boston

  • Year: 2018

  • Fun Fact

Cross-Train!

While training for the 4K, I found it super important to incorporate both distance running as well as HIIT training. I was an athlete all my life; I played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse and went on to play lacrosse at the collegiate level…I was never just a runner. I found it to be most successful for me to train as if I was preparing for pre-season. If you’re unsure what to do, always stick to the training plan and tips 4K gives you!

Take Care of your Body

It’s also really important to remember to listen to your body – if you’re really tired and hurting, it’s okay to take a day off. Pushing through pain, although it sounds really tough, could actually come back and hurt you in the long run. Remember to stretch afterwards!

Use Social Media

Social media was a HUGE help for me while fundraising. My family and friends knew how much cancer has affected my family on a personal level, so their donations alone were incredible. I also sold T-shirts, which was a huge hit because people were getting something in return for their donation and showed their support for me (It was also cool to see people wearing their shirts when we ran into Boston). Definitely use social media; post and have people repost!

Use your Resources

Having our group chat and Facebook group was helpful to share with teammates what fundraising ideas we had and what worked best for everyone.  I think the Ulman Fundraising pages that we made were also a HUGE help; they allowed people to read your story and really connect with the cancer community.

T-Shirt Sales

My most successful fundraiser was definitely selling T-shirts. I sold close to 70 shirts to both family and friends. I think that people getting something in return for their donation was a huge incentive for people to show their support.

Live in the Moment

My advice is to live in the moment and really cherish the time you have with your teammates. There are going to be days where you’re exhausted and you’re going to want to sleep instead of walking the town or going for a hike…but GO FOR THE HIKE! This is a ONCE IN A LIFETIME opportunity that not everyone gets to experience. Let your guard down and enjoy all that 4K has to offer.

Keep in Touch

It is definitely a HUGE adjustment getting home from 4K. It’s very much frowned upon to pee on the side of the road, or dance outside your car, or walk into a grocery store and ask for donations in non-4K life. It’s also very odd to learn to sleep in your bedroom alone when you’re used to sleeping on the floor next to 20+ friends that now became your family.

I’d say my best advice is to stay in touch with your 4K family. My teammates post EVERY day in our group chat about life updates post-4K. We plan reunions and try to visit each other whenever we’re in the area…the BEST part is we have places to stay all over the country! Definitely join the 4K alumni Facebook page and stay connected to what’s happening in the cancer community.

Sophie

  • Team: Baltimore

  • Year: 2016

  • Fun Fact: Sophie is an incredible baker!

A Bake Sale

My most successful fundraiser was a bake sale I held at my synagogue during the Hebrew School’s lunch break. Usually the synagogue sells pizza and drinks during this lunch break. The principal was kind enough to let me sell baked goods at the same time. The kids were so excited about all of my colorful baked goods, that they ended up spending their leftover change or lunch money to buy some.

Remember Your Why

While on the 4K run journey, be sure to cherish every moment, embrace those around you, and don’t ever lose sight of why you are doing what you are doing!

Get Involved with Ulman

Post-4K life can be quite startling, but Ulman offers so many opportunities to stay involved in the cancer community. I would definitely look into all of the different programs Ulman has (Cancer to 5K, BOOYA, Ulman House volunteering, etc.) and try to get involved in some way, shape or form. Personally, I interned at Ulman two summers after my 4K experience as a business operations intern. It was so neat to see the inner workings of the incredible organization itself.

I also signed up to be a 4K Campus Ambassador and have gotten to share a lot about Ulman and the 4K program with people on my campus who have never heard of it! I think it’s so important to continue to get the word out about Ulman, and to keep and cherish those connections that you have via 4K.