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Dr. J. on Running

Kurt Steiner

Dedication to Children's Running

Published May 7, 2001 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

When Lennie Tucker received the RRCA's Kurt Steiner Children's Developmental Running Award, I wondered who Kurt Steiner was. A thorough search on the World Wide Web revealed little information, so I turned to my buddies on the running email list server.

Allan Steinfeld, the director of the New York City Marathon, supplied the facts. Kurt Steiner was born in Austria in 1921. He joined the French Foreign Legion in 1939, and spent the next several years at outposts in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The Germans captured him in Tunisia in 1943, and confined him to a POW camp for two years. He escaped on a bicycle in 1945. Steiner later came to the United States, and served in the U.S. Army in Korea.

Kurt was a dedicated volunteer, race director and a founder of the running movement in the NYC area. Along with Joe Klienerman of the NYRRC, Steiner pioneered age group scoring and awards. He would travel all over the city to officiate at races. His passion for the sport was surpassed only by his passion for "childrens", as he called them in a heavy accent.

Vic Navarra witnessed Steiner's kindness personally as a young boy of 7 years, when he stumbled upon a 3-mile race in Clove Lakes Park in Staten Island. Steiner approached Navarra and encouraged him to run the race. They ran together. After the race Steiner shared a towel and kind words with the young runner, and awarded him his first medal. That chance meeting inspired Navarra to a life of involvement in the sport of running.

During the late sixties, Steiner organized many races for youths under the New York Road Runners Club Banner. He was especially keen on cross-country as the foundation for age group running. He established the RRCA Cross Country Championships in NYC, which hosted between 3000 and 4000 kids.

At start of many races at Van Cortlandt, Steiner took time to introduce any famous or near-famous runners who happened to be competing that day, including a recap of their athletic accomplishments. Sometimes this went on for 10-15 minutes as the runners stood around on the start line, shivering in the cold, waiting to race.

Jim Gerweck of Running Times also remembers a famous Steiner line at the start of many New York City: "If you can hear my voice, you can break 3 hours."

Steiner himself ran 99 marathons. He had a habit at Boston for as many years as he could, to burst into the lead at the start and sprint as hard as he could to establish the seriousness of the race for those of all abilities. Short and stubby, he ran full of optimism. He was never a fast runner but tried very hard which, of course, is all anyone can do.

Steiner passed away in 1993. His memory lives on every summer when runners meet for the Kurt Steiner Summer Speed Run Series in NYC.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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