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In his more than three decades with NYRR, Allan Steinfeld revolutionized the sport of road racing and helped to grow the New York City Marathon into the world-class event it is today. “When it comes to timing, scoring, measuring courses, designing finish-line systems, radio communications, and tying everything together with computers, there’s nobody like Allan Steinfeld,” said his close friend and mentor, Fred Lebow, in 1984.
A member of NYRR since 1963, Steinfeld joined the staff in 1978 when Lebow convinced the high school math and physics teacher to take the job at a 50-percent pay cut. An engineer by trade, Steinfeld became the technical director of the marathon in 1981. In 1993, when Lebow was ill with cancer, he took over as NYRR’s president. Following Lebow’s death in 1994, Steinfeld added CEO and New York City Marathon race director to his title. He held these positions until 2005. Allan Steinfeld passed away in January 2017.
Saved By Running
Born on June 7, 1946, Steinfeld grew up in the Bronx but attended school in Brooklyn. The long commute meant waking up at 5:30 a.m., and it prevented him from running track—the one sport this self-professed skinny outsider with poor hand-eye coordination excelled at. His life changed when he went to Hunter College and found success as a sprinter. Steinfeld continued running after transferring to City College, where he excelled at the 220-yard and 440-yard distances.
After college, Steinfeld earned a master’s in electrical engineering and radio astronomy from Cornell University and travelled to Alaska to pursue a doctorate. He returned home in 1972, dissatisfied with academia, and took a job teaching in Rye Neck, NY. Along the way, he never stopped running. During his stint in Alaska he put in five to 10 miles a day, and while teaching, he coached track and cross country and ran regularly in Central Park.
An Indispensable Force
Steinfeld also began volunteering with NYRR, working with Lebow as Lebow expanded the New York City Marathon into a five-borough event. Steinfeld went from envelope-stuffer to official race timekeeper, and when Lebow asked him to become his assistant in 1978, Steinfeld couldn’t refuse.
In addition to his invaluable work with NYRR, Steinfeld served as chief referee of the men’s and women’s marathons at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and he’s officiated numerous races around the world.
While Steinfeld helped thousands of marathoners get from start to finish, he only completed one 26.2-miler, and it wasn’t in NYC. It was the 1979 Honolulu Marathon, and he finished in 3:27, achieving his goal of “3:30 or bust.”
Steinfeld received the Abebe Bikila Award in 2009 for his outstanding service to distance running.
|1969||Earns bachelor’s degree from City College of New York|
|1971||Graduates from Cornell University with master’s degree in electrical engineering and radio astronomy|
|1978||Joins NYRR staff as assistant to friend and mentor Fred Lebow|
|1979||Finishes the Honolulu Marathon|
|1981||Becomes technical race director of New York City Marathon|
|1984||Serves as chief referee of both the men’s and women’s marathons at the Los Angeles Olympics|
|1989||Begins six-year stint as meet director of the New York Games|
|1993||Becomes president of NYRR|
|1994||Succeeds Lebow as NYRR’s CEO and race director of the New York City Marathon|
|1998||Serves as meet director of the Goodwill Games|
|2002||Serves as meet director of the Indoor National USATF Championships|
|2009||Wins NYRR’s Abebe Bikila Award|