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In his more than three decades with NYRR,
(1946-2017) 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, Allan 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. After that in “retirement” he consulted with many race directors worldwide.
Allan Steinfeld passed away in January 2017 after a prolonged illness. 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. At the Olympic Trials that year in L.A., a group of appointed officials including himself and yours truly were issued no officiating assignments. The next day was the 5000-meter run and we showed up diligently on time to get a possible assignment. It was then that Allan noticed that there were no lap counters assigned at all. He volunteered a group of us, took on the role of coordinating everyone and sent me on the infield to operate the lap counting cards and bell. We took that job for the remainder of the competition.
Aside from officiating LDR events in New York, the US and around the world, he served as the finish line coordinator at the Millrose Games for years and would occasionally show up to local MAC meets to work as a timer.
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. In 2015 he was awarded the USATF’s Robert Giegengack Award awarded annually to a person "who excels in contributing to the excellence and high standards of the sport of Athletics." The Award is USA Track & Field's only accolade not limited to one of the sport's three disciplines (track & field, long distance running, and race walking), or to any one of the three principal areas of consideration (official, coach, or administrator).
None of Allan’s family were able to travel in today for this presentation and they have asked me to accept this award for them. I have to say that I am truly humbled and thrilled to honor Allan’s memory by accepting this for his family.