The steeplechase is an obstacle race in athletics, which derives its name from the steeplechase in horse racing. The foremost version of the event is the 3000 metres steeplechase. The 2000 metres steeplechase is the next most common distance.
The event originated in Ireland. Horses and riders 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 (3.2 km) cross country steeplechase that formed part of the University of Oxford 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. 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 1992 and 2004 Games.
The steeplechase for women is 3,000 metres long, but with lower barriers than for the men. A distance of 2,000 metres, with a shorter water jump, was experimented with before the current race format was established. It made its first major championship appearance at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki. In 2008, women's 3,000 meters steeplechase appeared for the first time on the Olympic tracks in Beijing (see Athletics at the 2008 Summer Olympics – Women's 3000 metres steeplechase).
The steeplechase at the 1932 Olympics was run over approximately 3460 metres due to a lap scoring error.
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