We had the good fortune of connecting with Ron Steinhilber and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ron, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
The thought process behind starting Distance University was to provide an opportunity for children who wanted to learn how to run long distance events. I was volunteering as an assistant coach for another track club, but after three years I was ready to branch out on my own. With the support of my wife and daughter, I filed the correct paperwork, and Distance University was born in 2015.
We only had about 15 athletes for our first season in 2016, many of whom had never run competitively. That was OK. Our goal is to teach young athletes the basics of commitment, teamwork, sportsmanship, character, and self-discipline through running. We feel like most of our athletes accomplish these goals.
We have created a culture where children and families who never would have met are now best friends because of the existence of Distance University. Most of our assistant coaches are parents whose kids started in the sport a few years ago and are now teaching new runners how to be successful. The athletes who were young when the club started are now the grizzled old veterans, showing the little ones how we do things at DU. Sometimes I like to just sit back and watch as all these pieces come together. I’m very proud of what we have been able to accomplish in such a short period of time.
As we begin the 2022 season, we have about 70 athletes as part of the organization. I’m not sure how much bigger we can get, but I can tell you that each one of those families is integral to the success of the team. Distance University would be nothing without their commitment to the organization.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have been a professional firefighter for the City of Surprise for 20 years. I became a Captain in August of 2019. I first tested for the position in 2007. I put my family through a lot of trying times as I took multiple promotional tests before I was successful. It was not easy. However, I set this goal for myself and was intent on achieving it. I studied hard. I learned from my mistakes. When I was finally promoted, it was totally worth it. I love being a Captain and I’m glad I never gave up. I don’t feel like I’m any better than anyone else on the job, I’m just in the position where I get to make a lot of decisions. I’m proud of myself for sticking with it through all the trying times.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would take my friend up to Flagstaff to hike Kendrick Peak. It’s a relatively unknown hike just north of Flagstaff. I like to go up there in the summer and climb the mountain. I’ve taken the cross-country runners I coach at Paradise Honors High School up there as well. Once we’re finished with the hike, we’ll hit Fratelli’s Pizza on the way back into town. It’s a great place to refill the tanks after a four-hour hike.
On our way back, we would stay at the Inn Above Oak Creek in Sedona. It’s a cool place along the main drag going into town. The next day we would spend the day hiking in Sedona.
The next few days we would spend hiking in areas such as Skyline Regional Park in Buckeye, Thunderbird Park in Glendale, and Shaw Butte in Phoenix. We would spend our evenings eating in downtown Phoenix at The Vig Fillmore, The Arrogant Butcher, and The Blue Hound Kitchen. Hopefully, there would be some good music being played at the Crescent Ballroom, The Van Buren, or the Marquee Theatre.
After all that time playing around, a relaxing day by the pool at The Wigwam would be a great way to close out my friend’s trip.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My shoutout goes to my wife, BJ, and my daughter, Trinity. They have supported me throughout the growth of Distance University. Trinity has competed with the team since its inception in 2016. BJ was my co-coach for the first few years of the team. She worked on getting the uniforms for the kids. She also would help the kids get through injuries and be right at the finish to cheer them across the line, making sure they were running with the correct form and effort.
Operating Distance University takes up a lot of our free time. We haven’t been able to go on as many family vacations over the years because I’m so committed to the team. We’ve been a track family for about 10 years. I observed Trinity grow up by watching her on Saturdays at track meets. This has been a big part of our lives.
I know I don’t tell them enough, but I really appreciate all the love and support BJ and Trinity have given to me and the team over the past seven years. Without that support, Distance University would not exist. A big shoutout to you, my loves.