Allan Steinfeld: Considering an amazing life

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Allan Steinfeld.jpgAllan Steinfeld, photo courtesy of New York Road Runners

Allan Steinfeld, the man who guided the NYRR after the death of Fred Lebow, the man who has provided the sport of road running with many of the innovations on courses that we all take for granted, has died. He was seventy. Allan had many of his friends with him on the last day of his life, which was January 24, 2017.

Here a few anecdotes on this brilliant man...

Allan Steinfeld was Fred Lebow's right hand man, confidant and translator. There were times, when Fred Lebow would get so worked up, you did not know how to take him. Allan would be there, with a knowing smile, and an understanding was reached. Allan Steinfeld was not only running's techno wizard, he was the sport's elder statesman for many years.

These were heady, but challenging times. Lebow was the impressario, and Allan made everything happen. Allan surrounded himself with a wonderful group of people at the New York Road Runners, and provided accuracy of course measurements, consistent hydration, better timing and finishing areas, all of the things we have come to expect in modern road racing.

Allan ran the 200 meters and 400 meters in his day. In 1979, he achieved his goal of a sub 3:30 marathon, running 3:27. Most race days this guy was so deep into making sure all of the finishers had great experiences, he had little time for himself.

When Runner's World was purchased by Rodale Press in 1985, Allan Steinfeld and his wife, Alice Schneider, hosted the small group of us from RW (six to seven, I believe), at their place outside of Emmaus, PA. Allan and Alice were quite nice, generous, and observant. They were a very different view of the NYRR from the gregarious man from Transvaal, Fred Lebow.

Allan Steinfeld was comfortable in the happenings on race day, but he was trying to make all systems run smoothly. Alice would be in the results trailer, working on getting finishers results faster and more accurate.

Understand that in this era, there was little money for the teams that ran the big races. This activity had become a business. In fact, Alice Schneider was one of the first paid employees of the NYRR. This was after many years of volunteering.

When Allan Steinfeld took over from the ailing Fred Lebow, it was seemless. Allan's other skill set, trying to find consensus, came out. Understand that this man was well informed, and that there was very little, from the early professionalization of the sport, to timing improvements, to the growth of global marathons, that Allan Steinfeld was not invovled. Allan was able to see long term and short term. He also knew how to get key players to leave their egos at the door. That was a unique skill.

On my frequent visits to the Big Apple in the 1990s and early 2000s, I would always schedule a half hour with Allan. It was partly out of courtesy and partly out of respect. Allan Steinfeld was the man. He did not have the ego of some, but he had mastered the judicious use of power. I respected that, and I wanted to learn from Allan. For nearly fifteen years, under both Fred, and then, under Allan, with a hand shake, I sold ads for the New York Road Runners Club.

I remember, about 1986, I was at the USATF Convention. RW's publisher Mike Perlis had asked me to go to observe the organization. I was with Fred Lebow and Allan Steinfeld. Fred was speaking to me about what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I was considering a Ph.D. in Holocaust Studies as well as working at Runners World. He got angry with me, and told me to make a decision, one or the other. I was a bit taken back. After the initial discussion, I sat with Allan Steinfeld and Allan explained that Fred thought that I needed to focus on one thing. Allan did it in a very nice way, and I knew, Fred was right. But it was Allan, in his smiling, thoughtful way that helped me understand.

Allan was like that.

In the 1970s, running took off like crazy. I recall a quick story from Jack Waitz. In the first year Grete Waitz won NYC Marathon, he had to ask Jack for taxi fare to get back to the airport. This was pretty typical. Lebow battled the NYRR board over reimbursements for expenses. There was disagreement then whether a race director was a real job. The painful growth from volunteer organization to professional organization with healthy support of volunteers came over three decades. Allan Steinfeld paved the way for much of that evolution.

In his last few years, I would see him less frequently. I remember seeing him in the last year before his wife, Alice passed away in September 2016. I had been hearing updates the past few weeks that he was not doing well. David Katz and Jeff Benjamin would keep me informed.

Allan Steinfeld was a key person in our sport. Yet, in meeting him, you would have never known it. He liked staying in the crowd. He (and his lovely Alice) took running from fun runs to professional courses and finish lines, while the sport kicked and screamed about loosing its volunteer lustre. Allan was all about volunteers, he and Alice just wanted volunteers to take pride in their work (those with the NYRR surely did), and our sport benefitted from their positive nature and love of the sport.

RIP Allan Steinfeld. I will miss you.

I will also miss your laugh.

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