A Viewer’s Guide to the 2012 Penn Relays

Planning to watch the Penn Relays this year? Here's everything you need to know, from how to get there to where to sit to fun facts that'll impress your friends.

The Schedule

• Thursday, April 26th, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Expect to see: high school girls, college women and nighttime distance races

• Friday, April 27th, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Expect to see: high school boys and girls, college men and women, and Olympic development events

• Saturday, April 28th, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Expect to see: college men and women, high school boys, Olympic development events, and USA vs. the World races.

Check out a detailed schedule here.

The Events

Here’s a little review to make sure you’re up to speed on the events: A standard sprint medley 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 standard 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, in which U.S. teams face other countries to see where they stand in the competition. This year in the USA vs. the World category, the women will have a sprint medley, a 4 X 100, and a 4 X 400 race. The men will have a distance medley, a 4 X 100, and a 4 X 400 race. All of the USA vs. the World races occur on Saturday, which is why tickets that day are more expensive.

How to Get There

All of the races take place at Franklin Field, located on 33rd Street between Walnut and South streets. 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. Public transportation is recommended to avoid the hassle of parking.

For a more complete list of directions, go here.

Where to Park

If you chose to drive, there are several parking facilities located close to Franklin Field, as well as metered street parking. Street parking fills up fast and is limited to several hours, so your best bet will probably be one of the following parking garages or lots:

>> 34th and Chestnut Street (closed on Saturday), $17 from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., $12 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

>> South Street and Convention Avenue, $20 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., $10 from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Opening to close on Saturday and Sunday costs $10.

>> Penn Tower Hotel (34th and Civic Center Boulevard), $12 up to three hours, $17 up to seven hours, $19 up to 24 hours.

>> Sheraton Hotel (36th and Chestnut Street), $8 for the first hour, $2 for each additional hour up to four hours, $24 for twelve.

>> 40th and Walnut Street, $9 for the first hour, $2 for each additional hour.

>> Penn Park at 31st and Walnut Street, $8 daily rate (very limited spots).

>> 38th and Walnut Street (use the 38th Street entrance), $9 for the first hour, $2 for 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

This depends on which event you wish to see the most. If you want to get the best view of the relay race finishes and the long jump event, you should reserve a spot in the lower seating section on the north side of the stadium. If you care more about the sprint races and the pole vault, you should reserve a spot in the lower seating section on the south side of the stadium. If you just want a good view of, well, everything, simply make sure you get a seat in the lower stadium, as you will be much closer to the action.

What to Eat

You are allowed to bring food in clear plastic bags, sealed plastic water bottles and juice cartons, and small coolers into the stadium. Remember, alcohol and glass bottles and cans are prohibited. There will also be the “Carnival Village” right next to the stadium with refreshments available for purchase, as well as Penn Relays merchandise and apparel.

A Brief History

The first Penn Relays were held on April 21, 1895, but the idea behind the event began two years earlier in 1893, when the University Track Committee was looking for ways to increase interest in the spring meet. They came up with the idea of a relay, in which four men would each run a quarter mile in succession. A team from Princeton came down to Philadelphia to try it out and narrowly beat Penn. The teams enjoyed the competition and participated again the following year, with Penn for the win.

At this point, enough teams had expressed interest in the event that Penn decided to sponsor the first official meet in 1895. The first year’s schedule included races for colleges and prep schools. The event was such a success that interest continued to grow, making the event bigger, better and a permanent tradition.

Since the beginning of Penn Relays, rules and events have significantly changed, women have been added into the mix, and Franklin Field has undergone serious renovations. But the basis of the relays remains the same: an intense love for running and competition.

Fun Facts about the Penn Relays

• More athletes compete at Penn Relays than in the Olympic Games.

• More than 60 countries around the world have athletes participating at Penn Relays.

• During the 35 hours of competition, more than 425 races will be run, an average of one race every five minutes.