The steeplechase is a wonderful example of how all the interesting variation in a sport gets refined away over time:
The event originated in the British Isles. Runners raced from one town’s steeple to the next. The steeples were used as markers due to their visibility over long distances. Along the way runners inevitably had to jump streams and low stone walls separating estates. The modern athletics event originates from a two-mile (3.2 km) cross country steeplechase that formed part of the Oxford University sports (in which many of the modern athletics events were founded) in 1860.
It was replaced in 1865 by an event over barriers on a flat field, which became the modern steeplechase. It has been an Olympic event since the inception of the modern Olympics, though with varying lengths.