Steeple Technique: Getting Over The Barriers

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Below we have three different interviews transcribed from three different coaches and athletes. Each interview explores different race mechanics and technique to improve your steeple race. 

The first interview is with University of Pennsylvania's director of track and field and cross country Steve Dolan. Dolan talks about the importance of good technique to elevating the level of US steeplechasers. 

The second interview is from University of Texas graduate, two-time All-American, and fourth-place finisher in the steeplechase at the 2008 Olympic Trials Jake Morse. Morse talks about the importance of being able to alternate legs over the barriers in the steeple.

The third and final interview transcription is from two-time NCAA Champion in the 3000m steeplechase, Canadian record holder, and 2016 Olympian Matthew Hughes. Hughes breaks down hurdling early in a steeple race.

Read the interview transcriptions below or sign up for MileSplit Universal to access these and hundreds of other technique videos on FloTrack. 

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STEVE DOLAN (University of Pennsylvania): Technique | Importance of Technique, For US Steeplechasers

Whats the importance of steeple technique to be a great elite steeplechaser? 

Well, you actually see some steeplechasers run well and compete fast without great technique, but it's funny when I always watch those steeplechasers and I think, "But what could they do?" You know, if they really did have the hurdling technique down.

I think we should be really proud a lot of the Americans. I think [they're] really doing a nice job of getting their technique down and running great races. We've got some great ones right now and I think the event is really growing in our country. The thing that's exciting is that now that we have some good technicians . . . getting better and better and better. So I think we're really on the verge of making some splashes on the world scene. Jager's done it, Cabral's doing it, (and) Huling ran great last year at worlds. We're at an exciting time for American steeplechasers; young guys, too, are having a great year, so it's exciting.

I always use the equation if you're a very efficient hurdler in the men's steeple and you're also a good runner there's no reason you can't get within 30 seconds of you're 3K time or better; that's just always the equation I have in my mind. On the women's side maybe it's 40 seconds, but we have some great women's steeplechasers too right now so it's exciting to see what we can do on a world level and what we've done recently in the US. So it's an exciting time for US steeplechasers. 

JAKE MORSE: Technique | Alternating Legs in the Steeple

So going through the steeplechase obviously there is traffic, there are things going on, so how much of an issue is it to be able to alternate legs and how do you look at that? 

You have to be able to. I mean you really...I can't explain it. It's basically you're going into it blind a lot of times. I mean I was talking to Flo about it earlier today and it's kind of like you're running and then you begin to skip a little then you realize something's going to happen, then everybody jumps and then you jump through. So it's important to be able to do both legs. Then in some of those more serious workouts, you are always going to want to be able to do both sides. The water jump is extremely important as well. I wasn't super strong with taking off of my left leg I think--I was actually a horrible water guy--there's probably plenty of video of me falling. You have to be able to do it with both because you need both sides of your body because there is so much stuff going on. It's just constant chaos; it really is. You also get tired if you're leading with your left leg the entire time. 

Is doing drills the importance of being able to hurdle with both legs, or how did you get comfortable doing that? 

I think I just knew that you had to hurdle with both legs and these drills, and always being balanced and doing both sides helps, and not being afraid to use the left leg or the right leg or whatever your weakness is. Then always just staying focused on exercising both sides of the body. 

MATT HUGHES: Technique | Hurdling Early in a Steeple Race

All right, you're approaching earlier barriers, how do you attack these as you're trying to get a rhythm in the race? 

On an outside pit, you hit the first hurdle real early, like within the first 100m. So on an outside pit (water pit) you're starting on the front straight on the inside water pit, you're starting on the back straight so on an outside water pit you hit the first barrier within the first 100m so getting that position early is key. You see guys who know they are not going to be hitting the water barrier first so they just go right to the back and right to the rail in good position.

For me, I try to get into a good position, stay wide, stay out of trouble, and usually I hit that first barrier on an outside pit around the outside half of the barrier. I really like the outside of the barrier on an outside pit because you get off of it then get onto the inside right at the top of the curve.

Then on an inside pit, you have 200m so in a good fast race everyone is pretty strung out by that point. So the first barrier on an inside pit really isn't as crucial but it's still motivating to get that first one under your belt and just settle in.