In 1889, three distances had to be skated: 1/2 mile (805 m) – 1 mile (1,609 m) – 2 miles (3,219 m).
In the years 1890-1892, four distances had to be skated: 1/2 mile (805 m) – 1 mile (1,609 m) – 2 miles (3,219 m) – 5 miles (8,047 m).
Since 1893, four distances have to be skated: 500 m – 1,500 m – 5,000 m – 10,000 m (the big combination).
Ranking systems used
In 1889, one could only win the World Championships by winning all three distances. If no one won all three distances, no winner would be declared. Silver and bronze medals were not awarded.
In the years 1890-1907, one could only win the World Championships by winning at least three of the four distances, so there would be no World Champion if no skater won at least three distances. Silver and bronze medals were never awarded.
In the years 1908-1925, ranking points were awarded (1 point for 1st place, 2 points for 2nd place, and so on); the final ranking was then decided by ordering the skaters by lowest point totals. The rule that a skater winning at least three distances was automatically World Champion was still in effect, though, so the ranking could be affected by that. Silver and bronze medals were awarded now as well.