The steeplechase is an obstacle race in athletics, which derives its name from the steeplechase in horse racing. The length of the race is usually 3000m; junior and some masters events are 2000m, as women's events formerly were. The circuit has four ordinary barriers and one water jump. Over 3000m, each runner must clear a total of 28 ordinary barriers and seven water jumps. This entails seven complete laps after starting with a fraction of a lap run without barriers.
The water jump is located on the back turn, either inside the inner lane or outside the outer lane. If it is on the outside, then each of the seven laps is longer than the standard 400m, and the starting point is on the home straight. If the water jump is on the inside, each lap is shorter than 400m, the starting point is on the back straight, and the water jump is bypassed at the start.
According to IAAF rules, barrier height is 914mm (36 in) for men and 762mm (30 in) for women. Unlike those used in hurdling, steeplechase barriers do not fall over if hit; some runners actually step on top of them. Four barriers are spaced around the track on level ground, and a fifth barrier at the top of the second turn (fourth barrier in a complete lap from the finish line) is the water jump, which consists of a barrier followed by a pit of water which is 3.66m (12 ft) long and slopes upward from 700mm (27.6 in) deep at the barrier end to even with the surface of the track. This slope rewards runners with more jumping ability, because a longer jump results in a shallower landing in the water.
The event originated in the British Isles. Runners raced from one town's steeple to the next. The steeples were used as markers due to their visibility over long distances. Along the way runners inevitably had to jump streams and low stone walls separating estates. The modern athletics event originates from a two-mile cross country steeplechase that formed part of the Oxford University sports (in which many of the modern athletics events were founded) in 1860. It was replaced in 1865 by an event over barriers on a flat field, which became the modern steeplechase.
It has been an Olympic event since the inception of the modern Olympics, though with varying lengths. It has been run over 3000m since 1920. Since the 1968 Summer Olympics the steeplechase in the Olympics has been dominated by Kenyan athletes, including a clean sweep of the medals at the 2004 Games.
The steeplechase for women (3,000 metres long, but with lower barriers than for the men) made its first major championship appearance at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki. In 2008, Women's 3,000 metres steeplechase appeared for the first time on the Olympic tracks in Beijing.
2016 Olympic Champion: Consesius Kipruto (KEN)
Olympic Record: 8:03.28 - Consesius Kipruto (KEN – 2016)
British Gold Medallists: Percy Hodge (1920); Chris Brasher (1956)
World Record: 7:53.63 – Saif Saaeed Shaheen (QAT – 2004)
British Record: 8:07.96 – Mark Rowland (1988)
2016 Olympic Champion: Ruth Jebet (BRN)
Olympic Record: 8:58.81 – Gulnara Galkina-Samitova (RUS – 2008)
World Record: 8:58.81 – Gulnara Galkina-Samitova (RUS – 2008)
British Record: 9:24.24 – Barbara Parker (2012)
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