I’ve tried different answers based on the person’s age, knowledge of track and field, and perceived attention span. I have called it a long-distance hurdling event, simulated cross-country and human equestrian. No matter what I say, I always remember to mention there’s a water pit. People love that.
Simply put, the steeplechase is a 3,000-meter obstacle race with four barriers, or hurdles, and a water pit. Everyone loves a train wreck, and the water pit is just that. People flock to it when a race starts, hoping to witness a few good crashes. They’re rarely disappointed.
The pit is 12 feet long and located at the end of the track on the curve before the home stretch, either on the inside of Lane 1 or the outside of the final lane. It’s got a barrier in front of it, a barrier being a really wide hurdle. It doesn’t collapse if you catch a leg on it; you do. More on that later.
Most runners step up onto the barrier and try to jump as far over the water as possible. The idea is not to clear the water but to land with one foot in the pit and the other about to step out of it. “One foot in, one foot out” is the rule. Others just hurdle over the dang thing and take two or three strides through the water.