Attending the Penn Relays is one of the 100 things all runners should do before they die, as noted in my book. If you can make it to Philadelphia and Franklin Field Thursday, Friday, and/or Saturday, you will witness one of the most exciting and historic events in all of sport.
It is known officially as the Penn Relay Carnival, a 3-day celebration of track and field each April in the City of Brotherly Love. More athletes have run at the Penn Relays than at any other single meet in the world, and more spectators have watched the meet than any other, with the exception of the Olympics and World Championships.
First run in 1895, the Penn Relays is the longest uninterrupted collegiate track meet in the country. But it is not just for collegians; about half of the 20,000 competing athletes are high schoolers who are given the chance to shine in front of some of the most knowledgeable and vociferous track fans around. Other competitive classes include Olympic Development (post college) and USA vs. the World, and some of the greatest names ever in track and field have competed at the Penn Relays: Jesse Owens, Paavo Nurmi, Eric Liddell, Al Oerter, Wyomia Tyus, Marty Liquori, Edwin Moses, and Carl Lewis. Celebrity sightings are common too, such as hometown favorite and track fan, Bill Cosby.
While many individual events are run, it is the relays that create the most excitement at the carnival. In addition to the standard relay distances, spectators can witness the 4x800, the 4x1Mile, the Sprint Medley Relay (200-200-400-800), and the hotly-contested Distance Medley Relay (1200-400-800-1600) which Villanova won an amazing 16 consecutive years.
Added Bonus: Penn Relays spectators are not too far from the Philadelphia Art Museum, so after the meet a run up the Rocky Steps should be on your agenda. "Yo, Adrian!"