If you are a fan of athletics or among the veterans in the Olympics industry, you must have heard of the steeplechase race. Hurdles and water jumps characterise the course of this race and runners have to jump over them as they make their way around the steeplechase track.
Steeplechase is one of the races attracting many athletes, mostly youths targeting to break the world records. What then is the purpose of the barriers and why does this race differ from other types of running races? If you have unanswered questions concerning this race, read on this guide to get a detailed look at everything you need to know about steeplechase.
What Is Steeplechase?
Steeplechase is a track and field race where athletes run over a track course with obstacles. The obstacles include hurdles and water jumps. It calls for a perfect blend of speed, endurance and agility for the runners to run over this race's obstacles.
Additionally, the athletes should possess outstanding distance running, long jumping and hurdling skills to withstand this tough competition. Runners here should also prepare themselves mentally and physically to run over the obstacles despite the intense fatigue.
History of Steeplechase
This track and field race traces its origin in Ireland, where it shares a history with horse racing steeplechase. Here, veterans on horseback would run from one town's steeple to another. The race incorporated the use of steeples as markers due to their high visibility over long distances while on the run. Along the running course of this race, the riders would encounter obstacles such as streams and low stone walls, which they had to jump inevitably.
However, just like other track and field races, the modern steeplechase races originate from the University of Oxford, where a 3.2 km (two-mile) cross country race was held in 1860. This race attracted a lot of youths and copied some aspects of the former horse steeplechase. Later in 1865, another event was organised on a flat field characterised by barriers becoming the modern-day steeplechase race.
This race was legitimised as a running track and field event in English Championships in 1879. It was first run as an Olympics track race involving male athletes only in 1900. In 1902, it was standardised to 3000 meters or 7.5 laps on a 400 meter steeplechase track.
Since then, steeplechase races have been a part of modern athletic Olympics though run under varying lengths. Although men have been running the steeplechase races since their inception, women began running during the Beijing marathon in 2008.
Modern Day Steeplechase
The modern-day steeplechase typically covers a distance of either 2000 meters or 3000 meters. In this 3000 meter course, athletes run over 28 hurdles and 7 water jumps. The athletes here run for half a course, about 400m without hurdles, after which each of the remaining seven laps contains 4 hurdles and 1 water jump.
On the other hand, the 2000 meters race has 18 hurdles and 5 water jumps. In this race the water jump obstacles are not within the steeplechase track course but at the outside or inside of the turn to lengthen or shorten the run.
In steeplechase races, athletes must not run in a specific lane as with other track and field races. Although both men and women run these races, the hurdles tend to be slightly higher for men measuring about 36 inches and 31 inches for women. Most men and women running this race are mainly in their youth.
Training to run steeplechase races is similar to preparing for other distance races such as the 1500 meters, 2000 meters, 3000 meters or 5000 meters races. However, the challenge comes in clearing the obstacles. As the athletes progress with their laps, fatigue comes in and their legs get heavier making it hard for some of them to run over the obstacles.
For maximum running efficiency, youth athletes have to handle the obstacles correctly, consistently and confidently. Running over the hurdles and the water jumps may sound easier said and done. However, you should note that a small mistake or fall could cost you a chance to win.
Unlike other running hurdling events, the hurdles used in steeplechase barriers do not easily fall off when hit by athletes. The rules of running this race allow the athletes to traverse the hurdles in any way they deem fit. For example, you will likely see the athletes land one foot on the barriers as they propel themselves over. However, most veterans can clear these obstacles without any difficulties.
To effectively run over the hurdles or the water jumps, you need to adopt a good approach. For instance, whether you are running the 2000 meter or 3000 meter steeplechase races, you should begin your mental preparations on how to run over the obstacle when about twelve steps away from it. Do not hesitate or feel overwhelmed by the barrier. Instead, be aggressive towards it.
Being hesitant or nervous may cost you a potential win. When training, be sure to practice how to accelerate slightly before approaching the barrier, as this will help propel you forward over it. Additionally, you should practice hurdling amid worst scenarios, such as besides other competitors. Learn how to manage any form of body contact that could affect your efficiency.
When it comes to running over the water jumps, which are about 12 feet long, do not be afraid of jumping into the water. It may sound daunting, but it can give you a lead against other runners if well tackled. You should also learn how to use your lead and trail arms and legs to achieve a pro jump over the barriers. All you need to undertake steeplechase races like a veteran is sufficient training, consistency, focus, and self-discipline. Implement these skills and join the veterans in breaking world records!
Does body type matter in running a steeplechase race? This is a question that many people seem to ask. Although there is no ideal body type set for running steeplechase races, tall people with less bodyweight seem to do better in this competition. Most veterans who set world records are mainly youths of medium body height and weight.
Since its inception into the Olympics championships, just like other track and field races, the steeplechase race has witnessed dominance from Kenyan athletes. Kenyan youths have set most world records for the 3000 meters race since 1984.
If you plan to venture into running either the 2000 meters or 3000 meters steeplechase races in the Olympics, the above insights will help you run like a pro. It seems like a tough race, but it becomes an enjoyable event with enough preparation and understanding of details.