Savage Seven marathons draw seasoned runners

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Posted January 11, 2023 | By Andy Fillmore

The 13th annual Savage Seven series of marathons held here over the holidays drew seasoned runners from across the United States, including 81-year-old Jim Simpson.

Simpson has completed 2,212 full marathons (26.2 miles each) in his 34 years of participating in the sport.

He credits his good health to running.

“I’d probably be gone if not for running,” he said.

Simpson completed 141 full marathons in 2022, at least one in each of the 50 states.

A number of the runners at this year’s event were in their 60s and 70s.

“Don’t put me in with those old guys,” Simpson joked as he stood in the event staging area.

The Savage Seven Marathons was held at the Baseline Trailhead Park in southeast Marion County-the event’s venue for the past 10 years- Dec. 27 through Jan 2. The series was held at different venues during it’s first three years.

A circuit was mapped out for runners on the park’s asphalt path.

The event offered seven 26.2 mile- full marathons, seven 13.1 mile-half marathons and seven 50K (or 31 mile) – ultra marathons – one each day for a week.

Simpson is a retired plastic injection mold maker and Navy veteran from Huntington Beach, California. He and his running and traveling companion- self described “sweetheart”- Bettie Wailes, 78, of Winter Park, a former math teacher and software engineer, met through running 13 years ago.

Wailes has completed 607 full marathons and 257 half marathons in 28 years of running and she completed 156 half marathons in 2022, at least one in each state, the couple confirmed in an email.

After the Savage Seven Marathons the couple plans to participate in marathons in the Brooksville area and then travel to California and Hawaii for more running events.

The couple is planning on “100- plus runs” in 2023.

The Savage Seven Marathon series was founded and organized by local architect and avid runner since 1979, Chuck Savage, 84.

Savage said he runs for health benefits and the “social aspect.”

Many of the runners in the Savage Seven Marathons each year are repeat entrants, and many of the participants have met at other events.

Savage Seven Marathon runner Gregory James of Lexington, South Carolina, said he runs for “stress relief” while Kevin Brosi, who finished all the Savage Seven Marathons, started running in high school.

Retired accountant and runner in this year’s event, Don Wilkinson, has been running since 2013.

Liz Gmerek completed all Savage Seven full marathons this year as did marathoner, Henry Rueden.

Joyce Ong of Bristow, Virginia, ran seven, 50k ultra- marathons here while recovering from a collarbone injury.  She was accompanied at the event by her husband, Ray Cox.

Debbie and Ed Del Favero of St.aint Petersburg, completed seven half marathons and full marathons, respectively.

Debbie , a medical professional, finished the day seven run in 4:08:18 and Ed, a former fire chief in Miami Beach, finished his day seven marathon in 6:47:02.

“New year, new goal,” Debbie Del Favero said.


Race stats

According to results posted at, the fastest times by day were:

*Dec.27: Jonathan Williams , half marathon at 1:43:45; Kevin Hanna, full marathon at 3:36:28.

*Dec.28 : Jon Williams , half marathon at 1:49:06; Michael Gabriel, full marathon at 4:21:42.

*Dec.29: Tom Carney, full marathon at 4:48:34; Jennifer Bell, half marathon at 2:20::41.

*Dec.30:  no winners indicated ( Jerry Rick, half marathon listed time 3:11:23; David McManama, full marathon listed at 3:23:31)

*Dec.31 : Hanna Swidler, half marathon at 2:48:02; Sarah Wethal, full marathon, at 4:09:13.

*Jan.1 : Seth Elsheimer, full marathon at 5:09:15; Jennifer Bell, half marathon, at 2:21:16.

*Jan. 2: no winners indicated (Jonathan Williams, half marathon listed time 1:43:40; Jerry Rick, full marathon listed at 3:11:23)

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