The steeplechase was developed in Great Britain in the 19th Century, evolving from cross country events where runners raced between towns, from one church steeple to another, facing natural obstacles along the way.
Although the marathon was inspired by the legend of the Athenian military courier Phidippides (or Philippides), who supposedly ran approximately 26 miles from the plains of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C., the track and field event was first run at the 1896 Olympics. Those initial Olympics also included the 800- and 1500-meter runs. The 5000 and 10,000 were added in 1912 and the 3000-meter steeplechase in 1920.
The only distance event run by women when they began Olympic competition in 1928 was the 800. The 1500 was added in 1972, followed by the 3000 and the marathon in 1984 and the 10,000 in 1988. The 3000 was replaced by the 5000 in 1996.