What could we be talking about?
The Olympics... only comes every four years
Worlds... check above
NCAA Championship... college only
NXN... high school only
Drake Relays.... 15 years late to the party
If you haven't realized it already, we are talking about the one and only PENN RELAYS!!! You know the one with the big wheels and golden watches...
Here is our guide to the meet
There are two ways to get to Penn as far as we're concerned, on a yellow school bus or the train. (ok, maybe by car).
The school bus has always been my preferred method of transportation it lets you enjoy the experience while you are surrounded by your closest friends and teammates from the very beginning.
But the train also holds a sweet spot in my heart. There is just something special about walking from 30th street station to Franklin Field. Maybe it is being part of the chaos of walking amidst thousands of track fans or the fact that you can get a cheese steak before you even see the stadium.
When to Go
Once you figure out how you are getting to the meet, you need to decide what day you are going down.
For a purist, Thursday Night is a must.... it's when the High School Girls shine and the College Distance runners put on a show well into the night.
Can't take off from work or school Friday? Well sneak out early and make sure to get down there before 5pm!
If you can't get down there Thursday or Friday, Saturday will do! Its better to go one than none and I guess I have to reluctantly admit Saturday does have the highest profile action going on.
Highlights Include, the Collegiate and High School Women's Championship of America DMRs along with the HSG 3k and Mile. If you are looking for inspiration and fast times there is no need to look any further on Thursday night!
Now if you are looking for the most fun event to watch at the entire event, it goes off at 8:00 and lasts till 9. The steeplechase... there is nothing better than getting a snack and watching the steeple at Penn. I'm still not sure if I dreamed it up but, there used to be a guy who wore a mullet wig at the water pit... easily a top 5 memory of Penn (if it actually happened)
After the steeple the long distance events begin, it take a hard core fan to stay all the way to the end for the men's 10k which is slated to go off at 11:00 pm.
Get up early, get your run in and go to Federal Donuts . You will not be disappointed!
Once you have taken care of your run and fueling, check out the High School Boys 4x800. More than a few Jersey school have made a name for themselves in this event!
After are the 4x100s. These range in age from middle school kids to the fastest women in the NCAA. I'm also pretty sure there are over a million heats but I could be wrong. The event culminates with the Collegiate Women's COA.
In the middle of the day we are treated to the HSG COA 4x800 and College Women's 4x1500. I'll never forget watching the Tennessee women put on an absolute show setting the National Record in 2009.
After watching so much track you'll be hungry. I recommend a Jamacian beef paddy at this point. It's the snack you need at this point. Its not as heavy as a cheese steak but also still a local delicacy so you get the best of both worlds.
Post lunch, check out what it means to be a lifelong athlete. At 3:00pm the Masters 100's begin! You will see people running well into their 70s and having a blast doing it.
From 5:00-6:25 pm there is seemingly non-stop action.
This block is my favorite but, I'm biased. I grew up thinking Penn Relays was about the HSB DMR ( I was young and possibly self-centered) But old biases die hard and I still absolutely love the DMR. It sums up everything that is great about Penn, relays over individual titles, sprinters, MD, and distance combined, and fans going Nuts!
After Friday at Penn, you'll be exhausted, hungry, and ready for bed. But, make sure to eat and drink some water Saturday isn't for the weak at heart! We recommend Baby Blues BBQ
If you are taking this trip seriously you woke up in Philly. If this is the case give yourself some time to wake up early and run. Hit the river front trail to get to the Iconic "rocky steps" (a race to the top is a must), and then loop around back to the track. It wouldn't be wrong to stop by Federal Donuts again...
Now, unlike most track meets half of the fun is outside the stadium. Rolling up to Penn on a sunny Saturday looks more like a street carnival than a track meet. You'll see kids from the local Philadelphia grammar schools, 60 year old masters athletes, world record holders, current Olympians, NCAA champs and fans from nations around the world. The UN should hold its meeting here once a year. It is the greatest mixing of cultures outside of the Olympics in all of sports
The day starts off with race walking and quickly heats up with the 400Ih championships.
From 9:00-12:30pm its nothing but HSB 4x400... This can be a good time to check out the carnival atmosphere. Grab a coconut water, hit the merch tent, and try the pull-up challenge. BUT! Check the schedule and make sure you don't miss your squad racing on the track. By the end, the young men start to run some world class times. I'd bet anything that a future Olympian will be out on the track during these 4x400s.
After the 4x400 its non stop action. The USA vs the World competitions start off with the 4x100. I once saw Usain Bolt electrify 55,000+ fans on a Saturday at Penn... it was un-real! Along with the 4x100 you can see athletes from around the world all, at the highest level of the sport, compete in the 4x400 and SMR. The sea of American and Jamaican flags only furthers the excitement.
Countless Championship of America events are peppered throughout the day. 4x800s, 4x400, SMR, 4x1500, 4x100s. Whether you love sprints or distance, college, or high school. The day has it all.
Just remember, be a fan and cheer loud! There is no where else where track and field athletes are treated like rock stars quite like Penn. So please take a trip down and check it out.
If you are competing Good luck!
the straightaways are short
200 to go is further out than you think
Run hard, have fun, and be a fan of the sport!