ARTHUR Puckrin, who will be 70 very shortly, is back from Virginia, USA, after breaking the Over 50s world record for something called the Tetra-Ironman.

He completed the eight mile swim in a minute under six hours, the 336-mile cycle ride in nine minutes under 24 hours and the 80-mile run which followed apace in 28 hours 21 minutes. In total, he was an hour and 45 minutes quicker than when he was 68.

In between it all, through 12- hour nights in pitch-black bear country, there was just 75 minutes sleep. It was thus one of his less demanding athletic achievements.

Arthur is a former Cleveland policeman and now semi-retired barrister, in Middlesbrough.

That he is not just any old Iron Man is evident.

The more difficult bit, probably, is getting the man in the street - the guy who strolls along at 4mph, or who rides a bike only to wobble homeward from the pub - to grasp the enormity of all.

"Well yes," concedes m'learned friend. "I suppose everything is relative."

Perchance, almost, today's Backtrack will also have news of our old friend Sharon Gayter - similarly rucking round the clock last weekend - and of Eleanor Robinson, Arthur's sister, who has held 40 ultra running world records and won six titles.

The column, as ever, is going to extremes.

But back to evergreen Arthur, an ultra-athlete to whom Ironman events - the basic is a two and a half mile swim, 112 mile cycle ride and marathon run - prove irresistibly magnetic.

"I even crashed off my bike and crunched my knee, poor old gadgee that I am," he reports, in the vernacular.

His swim time was his best ever, thanks partly to a new wet suit and no thanks to the wash from a great cascade of jetskiers.

It was during the run that problems really started.

"I was half way through, chugging along quite nicely, when all of a sudden my brain went to sleep just like that.

People were asking me if I were all right and I couldn't speak.

"At the end of the lap they found me a mat and I had an hour-and-a quarter sleep. I was all right when the sun got up again."

As if to prove his Ironman mettle, he flies off to Mexico next month for a "Deca" - a tentimes torment. In 2009, when he'll be 71, he's been challenged by an Italian fellow-competitor to complete an Ironman event every day for a month.

There's an additional incentive for accepting. "I think," says Arthur, "that that Italian is even crazier than I am."

THE dear old Gayter girl, of course is but a bairn of 45.

At the weekend she lapped up 212k of a track in Tooting Bec, London, in 24 hours.

"It was satisfactory rather than brilliant," she says though she was first lady, eighth overall and confirmed her position as the country's top woman 24-hour athlete for the eleventh year in succession.

Next month she's in a six-day event in Monaco - maybe 100 miles the first day, perhaps falling to 85 thereafter. "I'm hoping for something quite special," she says.

In the Darlington Building Society, generous backer of so much else in sport and the community, she also has a quite special new sponsor - an unexpected spin-off from her being named overall winner of last year's Northern Echo Local Heroes award, also sponsored by DBS.

Soon afterwards she bumped into Peter Rowley, the Society's chief executive, at the airport.

It turned out that he's a marathon runner, too.

"He told me that I always beat him when we were in the same event," says Sharon. "I'm thinking of slowing down a bit to let my new sponsor overtake.

"Usually you're writing begging letters all over the place. This time Darlington Building Society have been trying to catch up with me.

They've been fantastic."

Last weekend's distance may even have been a couple of kilometres longer but for a fire in one of the floodlight pylons which sent smoke billowing across the track and affected her breathing. Sharon's asthmatic.

By yesterday, however, she was again running up the stairs back home in Guisborough - while Bill, husband and sedulous supporter, was back at work.

"He never left the trackside, was probably stiffer than I was an had two blisters to my none.

We make a pretty good team."

SINCE all things are relative, as earlier was observed, there is also Eleanor Robinson - nee Puckrin, formerly Adams, as they like to say in the classifieds.

Formerly holder of 40 world records, and six world titles - talk about running the family - she will be 60 in November. "I'm only doing 70-80 miles a week,"

she says. "It's nothing like so intensive, more for pleasure now."

Eleanor's Arthur Puckrin's sister, though they are no longer in contact. Her brothers Richard and Philip were also good athletes, Philip splashing out into competitive canoeing, too.

They were brought up in Guisborough. "Our house must have been like a training camp, really, always someone off running or cycling," she supposes.

Their father was an enthusiastic, and frequent, Lyke Wake Walker. Arthur, the eldest probably upped the pace when he joined the police and met the secretary of Middlesbrough and Cleveland harriers, a fellow officer.

"I used to go along with him and run sections. I got into it very early," says Eleanor.

Her progress was arrested by a foot injury six years ago. "I've seen all sorts of doctors and physios but no one could tell me what it was."

Remember the theory of relativity? "I still take part in events but after 40-50 miles you start to over-compensate and put too much stress on the other leg.

"I had a go at the Blackpool marathon which I did in threeand- a-half hours or so, but I don't suppose that made me the fastest at my age group in Britain, never mind the world."

Fifteen years ago, the Echo carried some splendid photographs of her training in Cumbria, where then she lived, with her son Myles in a baby jogger.

Now she lives in Derbyshire and trains, similarly, with a grandson in the jogger.

"Everyone round here knows me as the mad lady runner with the pram," she says.

"I can't wait until Suzie starts nursery and I can go off on my own again. There may be a couple of records in me yet."