Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


The steeplechase is a form of horse-racing (primarily conducted in the United Kingdom) and derives its name from early races in which orientation of the course was by reference to a church steeple, jumping fences and ditches and generally traversing the many intervening obstacles in the countryside.

It is a term now used to refer to a distance horse race with diverse fence and ditch obstacles; the most famous of these is the English Grand National run at Aintree race course.

The steeplechase is also an obstacle race in athletics (track and field), which derives its name from the horse-racing equivalent.

The length of the race is usually 3000 m, seven and one half laps of the track. In the first half lap runners encounter no barriers. In each subsequent lap the runners encounter five hurdles at the height of 36 inches. Four of the hurdles are on level ground, and the fifth hurdle at the top of the second turn is the water jump, which consists of a hurdle followed by a pit of water which is 12 feet long and slopes upward from 2.5 feet deep at the hurdle end to even with the surface of the track.

The steeplechase orginated in Ireland in the 19th century as an analogue to cross-country horse races which went from town steeple to town steeple, hence "steeplechase". Most of the earlier steeplechases were contested cross-country rather than on a track and resembled English cross country as it exists today. The steeplechase (at varying distances) has been an Olympic event since the inception of the modern Olympics. The current world record in the 3000 m steeplechase for men is held by Brahim Boulami of Morocco at 7.53,17 and was set on August 16, 2002 but is still awaiting ratification from the IAAF.