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The Penn Relays

The world’s oldest relay meet, held annually at the University of Pennsylvania

Penn Relays

The Penn Relays is the oldest and most recognized annual track meet. Credit: Photo by D. Tavani


April 28-30, 2016

Note: The information below is from 2015. Stay tuned for more information about this year’s event as it becomes available.


Now in its 121st year, the Penn Relay Carnival is the world’s first – and most widely recognized – annual relay meet.

Each year, this historic rite of spring draws crowds of up to 100,000 to the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, where spectators know they’ll see some of the world’s top track athletes compete — and begin Olympic careers.

And along with the athletes come the fans, who also hail from all over the country and the world. There’s an accompanying festival offering food, crafts and souvenirs along the streets that surround the stadium.

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The Races

Over the course of the three-day Penn Relays festival, top high school, collegiate, masters and even Olympic athletes take to Franklin Field for games like the 4 × 400 meters relay, javelin, pole vault, 100 meter dash, mile runs, sprints and more in hopes of bringing home a medal.

Perhaps the most anticipated race, though is the USA vs. World series of races, which occur on Saturday, April 25 from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Notable participating athletes include Justin Gatlin, who holds an Olympic gold medal for the the 100 meter dash, and Dee Dee Trotter, who has competed in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Tip: Due to the USA Vs. World race, Saturday is the main day of the festival.

Penn Relays Carnival

Returning to the festival is the ever-popular Penn Relays Carnival, which is only open to ticket-holders and is the epicenter of non-relays fun. The carnival is home to the Vendor Village, which promises everything from food and drinks — including eats inspired by some of the participating countries — to track and field demonstrations and a Nike tent complete with plenty of top-notch merchandise.

New this year is the AT&T Speed Lab, a health and fitness expo inside of the Palestra. In the expo, guests will find new track and field technology to try out and purchase, tons of vendors and much more.


Tickets are required for entry into Franklin Field to watch the races and to the Penn Relays Carnival. Two levels of tickets are available on the first two days of the event; general admission and reserved seating. For those who want to be as close to the action as possible, reserved tickets are the way to go. General admission tickets are $18 and reserved tickets are $24.

On the final day of the Penn Relays, three levels of tickets are available; gold , silver and bronze. Gold seats are closest to the field, followed by silver and then bronze. Gold tickets are $70, silver tickets are $55 and bronze tickets are $40.

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Getting There

Getting to Franklin Field is seriously easy. Take the Market-Frankford Subway line to 34th and Market streets and walk the few blocks to the track at 33rd and Spruce streets.

From the suburbs, SEPTA Regional Rail is one of the most convenient travel methods. Take the nearest line to 30th Street Station and it’s just a short walk to Franklin Field.

For those driving in, parking is plentiful. Parking garages are located at 3335 Chestnut Street, 4009 Walnut Street, 119 S. 38th Street and more. Click here for the full list of nearby parking garages. Street parking is also be available, but will be harder to find. For more information about parking and driving directions, click the button below.

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Those who can’t make it to the Penn Relays can check out the live stream right here.


The Penn Relays’ status as America’s largest amateur track meet goes back to the very first running, held in 1895 to stoke flagging student interest in track and field. That event drew 5,000 spectators, the largest audience for a track meet in Philadelphia up to that time.

The Relays have played an important role in Philadelphia’s cultural life from the beginning. It was one of few major events that accepted African-American competitors, and it was one of the high points on the African-American social calendar.

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