Steven Greenberg’s neighbors think he’s crazy.
What else would they think when, in a mid-winter snowstorm, they peeked out their window to see the 75-year-old man running up and down the street of his Hewlett neighborhood. Doesn’t this guy ever stop? The short answer is no. The longer answer is why would he?
“I spend at least an hour every day training,” said Greenberg, a triathlete who has lived in Hewlett for 50 years. “If it’s snowing or raining, you’ll see me out there anyway . . . My neighbor stopped me last winter and said, ‘It was snowing on Thursday. Was that you running?’ Yeah, it was. It was fun.”
Greenberg will be competing in the New York City Triathlon on Sunday. A triathlon is a three-discipline race where competitors swim, bike and run before reaching the finish line. This weekend, Greenberg will swim 1,500 meters (a shade under a mile) in the Hudson River, bike 24.8 miles on the West Side Highway, up to the Bronx and back, and then run 6.2 miles, across 96th Street and toward the Central Park finish line. It’s the 20th edition of the city’s triathlon, and Greenberg has done them all.
“New York City is my Super Bowl, and that’s why I’ve never missed it," he said. “I’m sure there’s been years when I may have been hurt a little bit, or had a cold or something. I was never going to miss New York. It’s just too good a race."
Greenberg, who is the founder and president of The Greenberg Group, a Hewlett-based retail real estate consulting company, has been competing in triathlons since the late 1970s, when the sport surged into prominence, he said. He had been running in marathons since the mid-70s, when he founded "Olympic Village," a chain of athletic footwear stores.
“I knew a lot about most sports, but I didn't know anything about running,” he said. “So, I took home a pair of running shoes. I started running and I hated it in the beginning. Then I started to get challenged by it and then I started to enjoy it.”
Although he still runs marathons, they have become a tad monotonous for Greenberg. Triathlons, however, are another story. Of the over 200 he’s done — including many on Long Island — New York City remains his favorite.
“I do triathlons all over the country,” he said. “I go to Florida, when it's cold up here. I go to California when it’s winter here . . . What I love about New York is the people. The crowds are terrific. They cheer like no other crowds. It's kind of like hitting a home run in Yankee Stadium. They really get involved.”
Greenberg has run 41 marathons, including 17 New York City Marathons and 17 Boston Marathons, he said. He crossed the finish line four minutes before bombs went off at the 2013 Boston Marathon. He had walked away far enough to avoid the blast that killed three and injured more than 260.
“That was kind of an omen,” he said. “Like, maybe you’ve had enough marathons for a while . . . It was frightening, very frightening. I have not been back to the Boston Marathon since then.”
Greenberg has returned to marathoning though, most recently at the 2019 New York City Marathon.
In most triathlons he enters, Greenberg is among the best in his age group. He takes great pride in his ability to beat many of his peers. While he’s never won outright, Greenberg has won his age grouping too many times to remember, he said. At last year’s New York City Triathlon, he was sixth among men aged 75-79 in three hours, 37 minutes, 48 seconds.
“I stayed healthy, I stayed limber,” he said. “I enjoy the training. It's a lot of fun for me. I was able to keep going and I must say that, at 75, a lot of my friends who were triathletes now have had hip or knee replacements or they gave up on it, it was just too much. For me, it was a daily challenge. I liked it. I haven't stopped and, fortunately, I've been healthy enough that I haven't had to stop.”
Winning is still a big thrill for Greenberg.
“They write your age on the back of your calf with a magic marker,” he said. “When you're out there, you're looking for other guys who look like they might be in your age group, and you look at their calf to see what it says. The most gratifying part of the whole race is to go running by some guy who's 35 and hear him murmur ‘Oh my God.’ That's a personal accomplishment, to beat some of the young guys.”
Eventually, Greenberg does plan to stop.
“I think, when I die, I’ll probably give it up,” he said. “But, not before then.”