By Jennifer Lorelai Ortega
Join the Navy, see the world truly was Paula Steinbach’s aim in enlisting; she knew that staying in Chicago wouldn’t make that happen. Once in, she requested a Torpedoman’s Mate assignment. “I’d felt like a lot was denied me as a girl in school,” she mentions. It took three applications, but she eventually earned the third such assignment given to a female.
Later stationed in Guam, she assisted in the evacuation of Vietnamese refugees. “They needed a woman to help with the female population,” she explains.
Steinbach started running during her military training and continued through a stint in Germany, enjoying the beautiful forests and participating in group walks called volksmarches. “I was hoping to run in the first marathon in Athens, but I ended up with bursitis. After that, I fell into bad habits…smoking and gaining weight.”
In 2000, weighing twice what she does now, she started walking and running 5Ks as part of Weight Watchers. In 2009, her brother challenged her to a 20-mile preparation for the Chicago marathon. “At the end,” she remembers, “I felt pretty good! I didn’t tell anyone, but I went home and looked for a marathon that would take place the same day.” That ended up being the Long Beach Marathon; Steinbach has continued running ever since.
Originally, Steinbach’s goal was to run 60 marathons by her 60th birthday. But on that day this past August, she ran her 90th in South Dakota.
To date, Steinbach has run 41 states in her goal to run marathons in all 50. As an active member of Team Red, White, and Blue, an organization dedicated to helping veterans transition to civilian life, she’s met and run with veterans from all over the country.
Now an American History teacher, Steinbach wears a different race shirt each day of work, using her shirts and travels to capture student interest. This dynamo even modeled lifelong learning by taking up trumpet and baritone in beginning band, an opportunity she hadn’t had in school.
The Navy may have started Steinbach’s journey, but this driven woman has wowed us all. She is truly a credit to our nation and a paragon of purposeful living for people of all ages. Thank you, Paula!
For more information on the Chino Hills-based Inland Empire Running Club, visit www.ierunningclub.com.