Originating in England, the steeplechase is one of the original cross-country and fell events. The name of the event came from the fact that runners raced across the countryside from one church's steeple to the next. The high point on the churches were used as markers due to their high visibility in winter. Runners would traverse over streams and stonewalls when running between towns, which is why gates and water jumps are included in the race today. Steeplechase traditionally combines different agility skills into one race: running, hurdling, and sometimes long jumps.
In an authentic steeplechase event water jumps are also included with the hurdle having a water pit directly behind it. The pit is 70 cm deep next to the gate, which slopes upwards away from the gate. The purpose of the slope is so runners try to jump longer in order to encounter less water. In traditional events women get a tougher run, as many male runners can jump the water pit as they are taller, but the ladies have a hard time not getting wet. But as both genders of athletes tire, and in the ennd many cannot avoid getting wet. Not many steeplechase athletes cross the finish line dry, so there are some epic water scenes to watch in these traditional races. For the local Christchurch event any mud and moisture will be whatever the winter weather brings – it is an ideal spectator sport!