A Viewer’s Guide to the 2013 Penn Relays

Planning to watch the Penn Relays this year? Here's everything you need to know, from the best seats in the house to the post-Boston security measures.

The Schedule

• Thursday, April 25th, 10 a.m. to 10:55 p.m.
Expect to see: high school girls, college women and nighttime distance races.

• Friday, April 26th, 9 a.m. to 7:20 p.m.
Expect to see: middle school boys and girls, high school boys and girls, college men and women, Special Olympics and Olympic Development events.

• Saturday, April 27th, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Expect to see: high school boys, college men and women, Olympic Development events and USA vs. the World races.

Check out a detailed schedule here.

The Events

The Penn Relays are like any other track-and-field meet, but on a grander scale. It includes events like the men’s and women’s 100-meter, the 4×100-meter relay, 5000 meter, hurdles and more. There are also sprint and distance medleys. The first consists of one 400-meter leg, followed by two 200-meter legs, and finishes with one 800-meter leg; the four athletes complete roughly a mile altogether. A distance medley consists of one 1200-meter leg, a 400-meter leg, an 800-meter leg, and finishes with a 1600-meter leg; the four athletes complete roughly 2.5 miles altogether.

Among the most anticipated events are the USA vs. the World races, where you’ll see U.S. teams facing other countries to see where they stand in the competition. More than 15 countries will compete this year, with relays contested in the men’s and women’s 4×100 and 4×400, women’s 4×800, and men’s distance-medley relay. All of the USA vs. the World races occur on Saturday, making the tickets more coveted and, unsurprisingly, more expensive.

Field events you may see include discus, pole vault, javelin, shot put and the long jump.

How to Get There

All of the races take place at Franklin Field, located on 33rd Street between Walnut and South streets in University City. It’s easily accessible by SEPTA bus, trolley and rail. Take the Green Line to 36th and Sansom Street or to 37th and Spruce Street, or take the Market-Frankford Line to 34th and Market Street. To avoid the annoyances of parking, public transportation is recommended.

For a more complete list of directions, go here.

Where to Park

If you’re a badass and choose to drive, there are several parking facilities located close to Franklin Field—as well as metered street parking. Street parking is difficult to find and has a strictly-enforced two-hour limit, so your best bet will probably be one of the following parking garages or lots:

  • 34th and Chestnut Street (closed on Saturday), $18 from 6 a.m. to 9:59 a.m., $13 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • South Street and Convention Avenue, Monday through Friday, $21 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., $11 from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, $11 from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • Penn Tower Hotel (34th and Civic Center Boulevard), $13 up to the three hours, $18 up to seven hours, $20 up to 24 hours.
  • Sheraton Hotel (36th and Chestnut Streets), $8 for the first hour, $2 for every additional hour up to four hours; $24 for 12 hours.
  • 40th and Walnut Street, only open Saturday and Sunday, from 7 a.m. to midnight. $10 for the first hour, $2 each additional hour.
  • 32nd and Walnut Street (Penn Park), $10 per day on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • 38th and Walnut Street (please use the 38th Street entrance), Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to midnight. $10 for the hour, $2 each additional hour.


On Thursday and Friday, ticket prices range from $18 to $24, depending on where you sit. On Saturday, tickets range between $35 and $55. Reserve your ticket here.

Where to Sit

Where to sit depends on which event you’re interested in seeing most. If you want to get the best view of the relay race finishes and the long jump event, think about reserving a spot in the lower seating section on the north side of the stadium. If you’re more invested in the sprint races and pole vault, consider the lower seating section on the south side of the stadium. For the best overall view, simply make sure you get a seat in the lower stadium: this guarantees a better peek at the action.

What to Eat

You are allowed to bring food, sealed plastic water bottles and cardboard juice boxes in 12-by-12-by-6-inch clear plastic bags. Remember: alcohol, coolers, glass bottles, and cans are prohibited. There’s also the “Carnival Village” right next to the stadium with refreshments available for purchase, as well as Penn Relays merchandise and apparel.


After the Boston Marathon bombings, the Penn Relays implemented tighter security measures than usual. What this means: it’s going to take longer to get into the stadium. Here’s what else you should keep in mind, with the full press release here.

• Backpacks and large bags (gym bags, duffel bags, etc.) will not be permitted into Franklin Field or the Relay Carnival Village for spectators.

• Animals are not permitted except service animals.

• Contraband items such as weapons, flag poles, sticks, and other poles are not permitted.

• Barbecue items and any open flames are not permitted.

• Smoking is not permitted in Franklin Field, per City of Philadelphia code.

A Brief History of the Penn Relays

Organizers first began kicking around ideas for a relay event in 1893, when the University Track Committee began looking for ways to increase interest in the spring meet. They came up with the notion of a relay, in which four men would each run a quarter mile in succession. Two years later, the first Penn Relays were held on April 21, 1895. A team from Princeton came down to Philadelphia to try it out; they narrowly beat Penn, and the competition was so enjoyable for the teams that they participated again the following year, with Penn taking the win.

By that time, enough teams had expressed interest that Penn decided make it an annual event, extending invites to both colleges and prep schools. Although the rules and events have significantly changed since that first meet—women have been added into the mix, for example, and Franklin Field has undergone serious renovations—the basis for the Penn Relays has remained consistent: an intense love for running and friendly competition.

Photo: Aspen Photo / Shutterstock.com