Even as he was falling to the road, Bill Schaffling was already making plans not to give up his bike/run career.
By hitting the road we mean crashing off his bike onto the pavement after tangling with a set of poorly angled railroad tracks traversing Upper Mountain Road in Buckingham last year.
Little did the Yardley resident know the damages would include a fracture in his left hip – an injury which would require a total replacement.
For some, that might mean the end of a daily exercise regimen. But Schaffling was having none of that. After the operation, performed by Dr. Joshua Steere under the auspices of Bucks County Orthopedic specialist Dr. Kieran Cody, Schaffling, who turns 70 next April, was back in the saddle again.
“I fell on Nov. 5 and that time of year, there’s moisture,” Schaffling said. “I wasn’t paying proper attention. With a track like that, you have to angle it properly. And I didn’t.”
Fellow riders Joe Boyce and Jay Ricco offered to ride back, pick up a car and take Schaffling for medical care but he wasn’t going to wait around for a couple hours.
So he rode back – very slowly – to where all the cars were parked in Yardley. Later he got an X-ray, which confirmed the worst. With the help of some friends in the medical business, Schaffling was able to schedule quickly and underwent replacement surgery just a few days later.
“It was amazing how quickly they do the operation,” Schaffling said. “I had the operation on Thursday and was in rehab on Monday. I was on a stationary bike the same day. When the operation is over, they put you on your feet right away. I had to walk up steps and be able to walk around.
“It takes about six weeks for the hip to be permanent. I had to be careful but you go to therapy twice a week. Both my therapists were runners so they were very familiar with where I wanted to go to.”
Logically, after having run 19 marathons, it was a little tough to give up the big ones but Schaffling admits his days of completing the 26.2-milers are over.
“So long distance is out which is fine with me,” he said. “I’m happy to keep it short.”
He was in therapy until the end of March. Boyce was getting into his training for his annual 500-mile bike trip for Anchor House in July. Another training partner wouldn’t hurt.
“He wanted me to come out,” Schaffling said. “I said all right, I’m not going to be fast. I started doing the biking and I think that’s the biggest help I could have had – strengthening my hip.
“Believe it or not, I have done over 2,300 miles since March.”
In an unrelated structural mishap, Bill’s back went out a few months ago. He’s had ruptured disks in his back for more than a decade so he knows what to expect and how to rehab it.
Schaffling, who retired in 2017 after 30 years at Bristol Myers Squibb, volunteers every year (from January to April) at AARP doing tax returns for mostly elderly citizens who cannot afford to pay for them.
Bill and his wife, Kathy, are quite proud of their two children. Son Steven, 42, resides in Syracuse, N.Y. and works for the university. He’s an administrator with a Ph.D in education. Daughter Carolyn, 39, lives in the area and is employed by Merck. There is a total of five grandchildren.
A Philadelphia native, Schaffling attended Archbishop Ryan High School and Drexel University. He was a swimmer at Ryan.
Running didn’t come along until he was nearly 40 years old when his younger brother, Gerry, talked him into getting back in shape and doing a five-mile race together. The rest is history.
Not long after a move to Bucks County, Schaffling hooked up with the Bucks County Roadrunners Club around the mid-‘90s after reading about the organization in this very column.
He’s been a secretary/treasurer of the club as well as one of its biggest boosters.
“I really enjoyed the friendships I developed,” Schaffling said.
Bill went on to run a personal best 3:14 at the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, N.Y. and has run the Broad Street 10-Miler an incredible 27 times with a best of 1:04.
“The BCRR friendships were key,” Schaffling said. As for his recovery from this mishap, his determination should serve as inspiration for anyone who had gone through a serious sports injury. “I think I’m as strong as I was before the injury. It’s just going to be a matter of being careful with my running. I’m not looking to set records, just run the Winter Series and run Broad Street.”
One more local athlete to add to our list of those who performed well at the Steelman Triathlon on Aug. 6 at Lake Nockamixon and the surrounding area.
Marie Dean took first place in the 70-99 age group of the sprint division in a time of 1:47. Her average speed in the bike leg was an incredible 17 miles per hour. That’s hauling it for people half her age.
The Doylestown resident is the wife of Mark Dean, who won the Olympic men’s division ages 70-99 in 2:54.57.
Congratulations to this amazing couple.
Ivyland 5K, 8:30 a.m., Ivyland. Contact www.ivyland 5K.org