Olympic Steeplechase Rules

London 2012 Steeplechase Event
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The 3,000-meter event entered men’s Olympic competition in 1920. The 2008 Games include the first Olympic women’s steeplechase race.


The hurdles are .914 meters high for men’s events and .762 meters high for the women’s steeplechase. The hurdles are solid and cannot be knocked over, but the tops are five inches long so hurdlers can step on them, if necessary. The hurdle at the water jump is 3.66 meters wide while the remaining hurdles are at least 3.94 meters wide, so more than one runner can clear a hurdle at the same time.

The water pits are 3.66 meters long with a maximum water depth of 70 centimeters. The pit slopes upward so the water depth recedes at the farther end of the pit.

The Competition

Fifteen runners compete in the Olympic steeplechase final. In 2004, one round of preliminary heats reduced the 41 entrants down to 15.

The Start

The steeplechase begins with a standing start. The start command is, “On your marks.” Runners may not touch the ground with their hands during the start. As in all races – except those in the decathlon and heptathlon – runners are permitted one false start but are disqualified on their second false start.

The Race

The 3000-meter event includes 28 hurdle jumps and seven water jumps. The jumps begin after the runners pass the finish line for the first time. There are five jumps in each of the final seven laps, with the water jump as the fourth. The jumps are evenly distributed throughout the track. Each runner must go over or through the water pit and must jump each hurdle. As in all races, the event ends when a runner’s torso (not the head, arm or leg) crosses the finish line.