Steeplechase was first contested by men at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games and by women 88 years later at the 2008 Beijing Games.
The origins of steeplechase can be traced back to 18th century Ireland. People would often race each other on horseback from one town’s church steeple to the next (the steeples were the most visible point in each town). Riders were required to jump over various barriers over the course of their race, including stone walls and small rivers.
A century later, the sport was changed where people abandoned the horses and decided to race each other on foot rather. When the race was modernized the walls were replaced with hurdles and the rivers and creeks with the water pit.
How it works
The 3000m steeplechase is a 7.5 lap obstacle race with 28 barriers/hurdles, and 7 jumps over a water pit. The barriers are 91.4m (36 inches) for men and 76.2m (30 inches) for women, the water pit is 3.66m long and 70cm in depth. The water pit is placed just inside the oval track, shortening the standard 400m track distance. Most runners step up onto the barrier and try to jump as far over the water as possible. The idea is not to clear the water but to land with one foot in the pit and the other about to step out of it. “One foot in, one foot out” is the rule. Others just hurdle over the bar and take two or three strides through the water.