By Mike Dougherty

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of Philadelphia’s greatest sports traditions returns Thursday morning. The Penn Relays are back in West Philadelphia. Thousands of athletes will compete at Franklin Field for four days — but this year will feel different to the runners than years past.

The entire track has been resurfaced, a $3.5-million project. Even the fans will notice the smell of fresh rubber from the bleachers. Penn Relays director Dave Johnson says changes include an additional lane outside the 400-meter rail, and…

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“We’ve changed the location of the steeple chase pit,” Johnson says. “Mostly it looks like a little cosmetic surgery, but in fact it enables us to run the various meets in better fashion.”

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He says there are more than 1,000 employees and volunteers ready for whatever challenges come their way this weekend, but as of now, they are thankful for a good forecast.

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“The key is to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best, and you’ll get something in between,” Johnson says. “Everybody knows what their task is, and the amazing thing is that every year — like clockwork — it comes together.”