NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> A borough cyclist has pedaled away with this year’s Don Marshall Aging Athlete Award.
In a long standing borough tradition, the Aging Athletes presented this year’s trophy to Newtown Borough Councilor Bob King for his achievements in long distance cycling.
“I’m very honored to receive the award,” said King, who joins a growing and illustrious list of 38 other amateur aging athletes who have been recognized over the years with the award and who have done some pretty incredible things in the world of sports.
King will keep the trophy, engraved with the names of every winner over the past four decades, for a year before handing it off to the 40th winner in 2019.
“Bob is a serious long range bicyclist,” said Bucks County Community College professor Martin Sutton who joined retired Mayor Dennis O’Brien in presenting the trophy. “He participates in races all over the Northeast and also winter skiing - that’s his other big passion.”
Sutton said King is “a worthy successor” to Peter Thompson who won the award last year for his achievements in tennis. Earlier in life, Thompson also was a baseball player starting in Newtown when he played for Council Rock and then Johns Hopkins University. He also played some minor league ball while attending law school.
“With the two of them it’s a one-two punch,” said Sutton of King and Thompson. “With them we have all the seasons covered.”
Among those in attendance at the 39th awards event was Don Marshall, the first recipient of the award back in 1979, along with other past recipients.
Sutton presented Marshall with the first award to mark a moment in local sporting history that had to be memorialized.
As Sutton explains, Marshall, playing for the Newtown Irregulars, hit a weak ball to shortstop and there was no way he was going to make it to first. Instead of going for the bag, he tackled the first baseman - Jeff Lewis - and knocked the ball out of his hand and was awarded first base.
“I thought that somehow we had to record that in history because you’re playing two sports at once,” said Sutton. “That’s when it started and we thought we got to do this every year. When we added the trophy, it really took off,” he said.
The trophy is recycled from a 1951 dog show in Philadelphia and adorned with a brass Springer Spaniel. It’s the same trophy that King received this year and “has been sitting around people’s houses in Newtown for the last 40 years,” laughed Sutton.
Over the years, Sutton said the award has morphed into a recognition given to amateur athletes who the Aging Athletes Committee thought deserved some credit and some local publicity.
Marshall was the youngest to receive the award at age 39. The oldest was former boxer Joe Camilla at age 93.
For King, who taught school at Newtown Friends School and later in Philadelphia and had his summers off, biking was the perfect distraction. It was also easier on the body than cross country and swimming, which he also enjoys.
King isn’t just your casual cyclist who buzzes around town on errands. He has put down some serious mileage on his Schwinn and Cannondale and has covered an impressive amount of real estate in his life.
In his prime, he was covering about 1500 miles a year.
During the 1970s - his most prolific years as a cyclist - he rode across Great Britain and then through France where he logged his longest ride ever.
In the British Isles, King set off from close to London and rode through southern England to Wales. He then crossed over to the Emerald Isle, riding up the east Irish coast to Northern Ireland before taking a ferry back across to Scotland and over to Loch Ness.
He logged his longest ride ever, from Paris, down the Loire Valley to Biarritz on the Spanish border and then over to Lourdes covering a distance of close to 1,200 miles.
In 1976, King also pedaled from Allentown to Montreal, Canada, covering about 440 miles. The Summer Olympics were being held in Montreal that year.
“I jumped on my Schwinn Varsity, which was one of the best bikes at the time. I remember spending $110 on it and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of money,’” said King.
His next ride that summer took him to Nova Scotia to visit relatives.
“That’s past glory,” he says with a laugh, although he still squeezes in a close to 200 mile ride here and there.
Two years ago he did the Pan-Mass Challenge, a fundraising ride that attracts some 6,000 riders. The race begins in Wellesley, Mass. and ends at Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, a distance of 182 miles over two days.
More typically King does 20 to 25 mile jaunts on his 21-speed Cannondale through the Bucks County countryside, putting down 500 miles in an average summer with a group of local cyclists.
“We have an eastern route, a western route and a Carversville route that we take,” he said. “It’s a great way to get outside. You can see deer and turkey. Every once in a while you see a fox. It’s really nice just to be out riding with friends.”
So what’s his next big cycling challenge?
He’s toying with the idea of a biathlon, which combines cycling and swimming.
“That might be a good thing for me to do, but it’s just a matter of time. In order to do something like that you have to really commit yourself to it,” said King.
In the meantime, he’ll continue his local cycling excursions and enjoying the view of the Bucks County countryside from his Cannondale.
1. Don Marshall 1979
2. John Marino ‘80
3. Robert Dodge ‘81
4. Joe Malloy ‘82
5. Bill Preston ‘83
6. John Gilbert ‘84
7. Vince Nardo ‘85
8. Frank McGill ‘86
9. Richard Danese ‘87
10. Lou Skerdlant ‘88
11. Larry Briesky ‘89
13. Dirk Dunlap ‘91
14. Bob Davis ‘92
15. Skip Trowbridge ‘93
16. Dick Koenig ‘94
17. Jerry McKeon ‘95
18. Dennis Hancock ‘96
19. Jim Berkey ‘97
20. Tom Walsh ‘98
21. Jim Kean ‘99
22. Al Faix 2000
23. Bob Norman ‘01
24. Tom Haney ‘02
25. Dave Hunter ‘03
26. Ross Hendricks ‘04
27. Bobby Blake ‘05
28. Phil Hagan ‘06
29. Dennis O’Brien ‘07
30. Jimmy Clark and
John Leonard ‘08
31. Bill Charlton ‘09
32. Jack Erickson ‘10
33. Joe Camilla ‘11
34. Bob Musto ‘12
35. Nina Frances
36. Bernie Derby ‘14
37. Ron Ricci ‘15
38. Peter Thompson ‘16
39. Bob King ‘17