Jon and Maura at the STP in 1997 (L) and 2016 (R)
Maura Steiner and her dad Jon have a good thing going—23 years, to be exact, of going all the way to Portland. This year, when Maura and Jon cross the finish line of the Kaiser Permanente STP presented by Alaska Airlines, they’ll be celebrating more than just the mileage. They’ll be honoring the bond that is perhaps more powerful than the strength it takes to pedal there.
Jon’s history with cycling goes back decades, but formed mostly out of necessity. For years he was a long-distance runner; but like many who practice the sport, Jon suffered from knee ailments. His doctor advised him to consider cycling instead, and a new passion was born.
When Maura was just 8 years old, Jon introduced her to biking. When they first started riding together, they pedaled just short distances, gradually working their way up to longer rides. It took time, but Jon didn’t mind. “What made it work was that he let me progress at my own pace,” Maura recalls of her dad’s patience.
Soon after, Maura and Jon began training for their first STP together. Jon had ridden a number of times in the past, but this would be a whole new experience. “I thought it sounded really fun,” Maura remembers of her initial impression. That first year, Maura didn’t quite make it all the way to Portland on her own bike, relying instead on a little help from their family car. But young Maura was hooked. The excitement of crossing the finish line in Portland solidified her resolve to do it again the following year. And every year since for the last 23 years, Maura and Jon have done just that, biking all the way together. Even more impressively, the last 13 years have been one-day rides.
These days, Maura revels in her happy memories of riding the STP with her dad, and many of them are things she looks back at with laughter. “I had a little bell on my bike,” Maura says of her childhood wheels. “And every time I would pass another rider on the STP, I would say ‘9-year-old girl on your left!’”
But it wasn’t just passing techniques that Maura’s dad taught her. By training with Jon over the years she learned how to draft and conserve energy, and now she mostly leads when they ride together. Even considering all the rules of the road that she’s learned from her dad, Maura points to their unique bond as being one of the most important take-aways. “It was just really neat how we both bonded over this passion for cycling,” she says. “We might not talk a whole lot on a ride, but the bonding experience is just being out on the road together.”
That sense of togetherness hasn’t just helped Maura and Jon reach the finish line—it also helped them through some tough times. When Maura was 16, Jon was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and went through eight months of chemotherapy. He rallied and still rode the STP that year. And just over two and a half years ago Jon suffered a massive heart attack, commonly known as the “widow maker.” Despite the damage incurred by 30 percent of his heart, Jon survived, and his doctor largely credited his excellent physical health as a key contributing factor. Again, and under his doctor’s approval, Jon rode the STP that year, never giving up.
The last 23 years of riding the STP together have brought a host of great memories for Maura and Jon. They’ve been inspired by all the different types of riders from various age groups and backgrounds. They’ve made new friends, been recognized for their matching jerseys and learned important lessons. “You can do whatever you put your mind to, and then apply that understanding to other experiences,” says Maura. It’s a lesson that many parents likely hope to instill in their children. In thinking about what she’s learned from her own dad, Maura offers a simple encouragement to anyone else hoping to get their kids into biking: “Just listen—don’t force—and go on their terms, even though it may not be a very long ride,” she recalls fondly of Jon’s approach. “If they end up loving it, they’ll be the ones convincing you to do it.”
It’s a notion Maura sees reflected in her own experience riding the STP with her dad from such a young age. “Because of our special bond over the STP, we’ve become biking buddies for life,” she says. “That’s probably the neatest part. I don’t think you’ll find too many pairs like us, dads and daughters that spend so much time together just biking.”
This year, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the STP, we’re thrilled to welcome Maura and Jon across the finish line together for the 23rd consecutive time—and 30th for Jon. We’re eager to see what’s next along the journey for this biking duo. We have a feeling we’ll see them again soon.
Registration for the Kaiser Permanente STP presented by Alaska Airlines closes July 7. Sign up today!
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