By Omar Waheed and Susan Stapleton, Des Moines Register
The 112th Drake Relays return to their usual format after they were canceled in 2020 and ran on an altered schedule in 2021. Athletes from high schools, colleges, universities and elite U.S. Track and Field join the mix over four days starting on Wednesday, April 27, but festivities start taking place this Friday with road races, a 1-mile run, street painting, a Beautiful Bulldog Contest, a carnival and more taking place in downtown Des Moines and on the Drake University campus.
Most of the track and field events take place at Drake Stadium, home of the Blue Oval, with some road races, such as a half-marathon, taking over the streets of Des Moines. And while events at the stadium require tickets, the Drake Relays offer more ways for just about anyone to get involved.
Here’s what you need to know about the Drake Relays.
What are the Drake Relays?
The Drake Relays bring an outdoor track and field event to Des Moines on the last weekend in April. Most events take place at Drake Stadium, 2719 Forest Ave. in Des Moines, on the Drake University campus. The Drake Relays, billed as America’s Athletic Classic, is regarded as one of the top track and field events in the United States.
What’s the schedule for the Drake Relays?
With hundreds of events to see, the Drake Relays offer everything from Olympic hurdlers to high school stars competing across an array of track and field events.
The Drake Relays will start at 7:30 a.m. April 24 with the 10K and half-marathon road races and end around 5 p.m. Saturday, April 30 after the meet’s last events — the high school girls and boys 4×400 relay finals.
Track and field competition will begin on Wednesday, April 27, with the men’s decathlon and women’s heptathlon, which return for the first time in three years. The combined events conclude on Thursday, April 28, followed by the Distance Carnival on Friday, April 29, featuring the nation’s top collegiate athletes alongside Iowa’s finest high school athletes.
Of note for 2022:
Olympians compete in the Invitational women’s 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles as well as the Invitational men’s 110m hurdles and 400m hurdles. Collegiate stars race in the men’s and women’s 100m dash.
Elementary Shuttle, Middle School Distance Medley and Masters 800m will return this year after not taking place in 2021.
New in 2022, Rex Harvey Memorial Masters Shot Put will follow the men’s invitational shot put, which features the world record holder Ryan Crouser.
The full schedule of the events can be seen via the Drake Relays’ site.
How much are tickets for the Drake Relays?
Tickets start at $15 for Thursday events and $25 for general admission on Friday and Saturday. Packages for all three days start at $75. Head to draketix.com/drakerelays to purchase. Digital tickets can be accessed through AXS mobile app.
Where to park and how to avoid traffic
Parking during the Drake Relays can be intense as thousands of people crowd in excitement to see the annual event. It can be difficult to navigate but maps and parking areas are outlined for attendees. For $10 parking, head to the parking lot at Forest Avenue and 24th Street.
The Fan Zone
Forest Avenue will be closed between April 27-29 from 27th to 29th streets to make way for the Fan Zone, a place for fans to congregate on the south side of Drake Stadium.
Campus parking lots
Lots will be monitored throughout the event and parking passes are required. Parking is available in general around the stadium and street parking is available on any open roads. Follow street parking signs to make sure you are allowed to park there.
Handicap parking is available at lot 18 on the west side of the stadium. Entry is only available from Clark Street. Parking in the area will cost $10.
Lots open no earlier than three hours before the start of the morning session each day. RVs are prohibited and parking passes are still required for marked university areas.
Beautiful Bulldog Contest
The 2022 Beautiful Bulldog Contest is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 25, at Drake’s Knapp Center; doors open for spectators at 5 p.m.
Thirty canine contestants will walk the pageant runway, showing off their costumes and performing tricks for the judges, who will choose winners in the following categories: Drake Spirit, Family Theme, Best Dressed, Congeniality, Rescue Dog Recognition, Porterhouse People’s Choice, Second Runner-Up, Runner-Up and Most Beautiful Bulldog.
Myrtle Mae, a rescue bulldog belonging to Whitney Bogdanski, of Des Moines, is the most recent winner. She was named Most Beautiful Bulldog at last year’s event, which returned to in-person viewing after 2020’s contest was held virtually.
What is the Grand Blue Mile?
The Grand Blue Mile is an all-ages street run created by Drake Relays and Blue Cross and Blue Shield to promote healthy habits and celebrate personal achievement. The run will take place in downtown Des Moines and spans one mile.
The event will take place Tuesday, April 26, at 6 p.m. starting with its Iowa Kid Strong Victory Lap and staggered starts for a recreational division, men’s and women’s competitive divisions and the USATF championship.
Races will start on Locust Street in front of the Meredith Corp., head east to Eighth Street, where runners wraps to Grand Avenue going west for the finish in front of the Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield building.
Drake Relay Road Races: 5K, 10K and half marathon
The Drake Relay has three road races available: a 5K, 10K and half marathon. Double up on the Grand Blue Mile and Road Races to participate in the Bulldog Double and receive exclusive apparel and a medal
Road races will take place April 24 starting with the 10K and half marathon at 7:30 a.m.
Drake Relays Health & Fitness Expo
Head to the Knapp Center on the Drake University campus on Saturday, April 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the Drake Relays Health & Fitness Expo. Road race contestants can pick up their race packets here, or head to the expo events that include an early afternoon yoga and a speaker lineup. Health and fitness vendors and Cubbie Bear, the Iowa Cubs mascot, also make an appearance.
Student organizations paint the street along Carpenter Avenue with colorful squares on Sunday (a date change due to weather this weekend). A paint fight with participants follows on Monday. On Tuesday, students paint the west end of the street black “as a statement of solidarity and a way to reinforce our commitment to equity and inclusion.”
Rescue Dog Fair
Head to the Knapp Center, 2525 Forest Ave.before the Beautiful Bulldog Contest on Monday to see rescue dogs from 5 to 6 p.m.
Head to Helmick Commons about a block south of Drake Stadium for the SAB Relays Carnival on April 27 from 2 to 5 p.m. Activities will include inflatables, a dunk tank, caricature artists, student musicians, food, product promotions, lawn games and more.
How to volunteer for the Drake Relays
Volunteers are the backbone in making sure the Drake Relays go without a hitch. Volunteers can sign up for any event and get access to helping and watching events.
Omar Waheed is a spring 2022 reporting intern for the Des Moines Register.