The Sport Information Resource Centre
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The Sport Information Resource Centre

As the Canada Summer Games and the International Association of Athletics Federation, IAAF, start taking place in August, track and field will be back on center stage. The beauty of track and field is that there are no referees or timeouts. It is all about who can get from one point to the other the fastest, who can jump the highest and longest and who can throw the furthest. Of course there are rules, but unlike most other sports, there is no debate on who is the best at each event. Usain Bolt is the fastest man over 100m and Yelena Isinbaeva is the best female pole-vaulter. Both of these athletes hold the world records in their respective events.

As you browse through the meet schedule, pay particular attention to one event often not covered by the media: the steeplechase.

  • The steeplechase is a 3000m race, seven and a half lap, with four barriers or hurdles and a water pit which athletes must clear each lap. 
  • Occasionally, the younger age groups will contest a 1500m or 2000m steeplechase race. 
  • The barriers are 0.914m in the men’s race and 0.762m in the women’s race. 
  • The water pit is 3.66m in length and is located on the curve before the home stretch of the track, either on the inside or the outside. 
  • The pit is 70cm deep near the barrier but slopes upwards so the water depth recedes at the farther end of the pit.
  • A barrier is set up at the front of the pit so that steeplers can push off in order to clear the pit. The idea is that as you push off with one foot, you try to land with the other in the water and then the push off leg lands out of the water. 

The steeplechase requires a combination of speed, endurance and strength. These attributes are required because athletes need to clear 28 barriers during the race and make it over the water pit seven times. It takes a lot of energy to jump that many times, while maintaining a certain pace and changing speed when approaching the barriers. One thing about the steeple is it is very difficult to run it evenly paced. As athletes approach the barriers, the pace increases so as to be able to build momentum to get over the barriers, before settling back into pace. This requires a lot of energy and a lot of mental toughness.

You should take note of how each steeplechaser clears the barriers and the water pit. Steeplechasers have a similar technique to that used by 400m hurdlers, though not quite the same. Steeplechasers jump about 10cm higher due to the fact that if you hit the barrier you are the one going down, not the barrier.

If you enjoy crashes, the steeplechase is the best event to witness as there are plenty of crashes, and some that are not so beautiful. The steeplechase is also like watching art in motion, or a beautiful dance, since the athlete must navigate through obstacles and jump over water.

At the IAAF World Championship in Moscow, Canada will be represented by Alex Genest, Chris Winter, and Matt Hughes in the 3000m steeplechase. The semifinals are set for August 12. At the Canada Summer Games both the women and men steeplechase are slated for August 13. Now that you know more, tune in to cheer on our athletes as they take on the steeplechase.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Benson T. 3000m Steeplechase. Modern Athlete & Coach. July 2011;49(3):32-36. Moss D. Use a Long Jump Pit to Simulate a Steeplechase Water Jump. Tricks Of The Trade For Middle Distance, Distance & Cross-Country Running. June 2004;:70. 
2. Hunter I, Lindsay B, Andersen K. Gender differences and biomechanics in the 3000m steeplechase water jump. Journal Of Sports Science & Medicine. June 2008;7(2):218-222. 
3. Moss D. Indoor Steeplechase Workout. Tricks Of The Trade For Middle Distance, Distance & Cross-Country Running. June 2004;:120-121.
4. Probst J, Lawler P. Around the world. Modern Athlete & Coach. October 2007;45(4):41-42. 
5. Olszewski R. Rel-Event History. Athletics. July 2010;:29-30. 
6. Stefanović R, Lilić L. PHYSIOLOGICAL BASIS, RESOURCES, DEVELOPMENT AND TRAINING TASKS FOR THE STEEPLECHASE RUNNER. Activities In Physical Education & Sport. December 2011;1(2):201-204. 



The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.