Sharon Gayter runs and runs. Last time she appeared hereabouts, April 2003, she was covering 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours, the only proviso that there had to be a mile in every hour. This time she's going to extremes.

Beginning on September 3, she plans to break by almost a day and a half the women's world record for the 830-odd miles between Lands End and John o' Groats.

The record's 13 days, ten hours and a minute. She's aiming at 12 days, an average 70 miles each day run in four-hour sections followed by an hour's rest and (she hopes) five hours sleep at night.

"I'm a four-hour person. I do things in four-hour segments," she says. "I don't think there are 837 miles to go, I think there are three hours and 55 minutes."

The answer to the eternal question, to what and why and well I'll be, isn't just because it's there but because she's there, too - and even for the engaging Mrs Gayter, it's going to be anything but a fun run.

"It's been on the boiler for years," she says. "I just have the feeling that I've been pootling around, never really making my mark on history.

"All right, I've been an international athlete since 1994, I've been Britain's No 1 female 24 hour runner for ten consecutive years and I've been to a few world championships, but I wanted to do something to really be remembered by and I wanted to do it in Britain.

"If I can do it, it could be a very long time before the record is beaten."

Originally from London - Bill, her indomitable husband and eternal support party, still calls her the Wicked Witch of the South - she's long been in Guisborough, around which there are a few more hills than Guildford. Slanderously, she calls Bill Grumbling Gayter.

She's 42 and asthmatic, hopes to raise money for Asthma UK but is financing the run herself.

She was a Teesside bus driver, gained a sports science and physiotherapy degree, did some lecturing and has just completed a Master's - perhaps inevitably in sport and exercise.

"It's a challenge and I always need one," she says, "but this is the biggest of my life."

Since we are very fond of the old Wicked Witch - it's just a shame her first name wasn't Alison - we meet for lunch in Guisborough.

She turns up in a sweat shirt from the Shakespeare Marathon, the (doubtless Shakespearean) quotation "May you pace forth swift as a shadow" emblazoned on the back.

"I think I was fourth in that one," she recalls, but in truth it's not her best distance. Far, far too short.

That morning she'd limited herself to an hour's running and an hour on the weights, in the evening she'd have an hour with New Marske Harriers, her club, not least to run off the chocolate cake which followed the lasagne.

"Chocolate's my only vice," she says, but between now and the big one she's slowing down a bit, anyway - "not a single marathon for three weeks."

The world record attempt - coast to coast the long way round - has been a year in the planning, right down to a detailed recce, with Bill and by bike, the necessities of the trip in an overflowing trailer behind.

The bike ride took longer than the run is likely to, not least because - incorrigibly - she ran the Edinburgh Marathon in the middle. "The way you do," she says.

The route's been meticulously measured, some of it using a surveyor's wheel. Though doing it south to north neither means it'll be uphill (as fallaciously is supposed) nor more likely to have head winds, there's a reason, nonetheless.

"It's because in my mind I'll be heading home, even though Guisborough's probably in the middle. I love the north and to be heading northwards is psychological.

"There are people who reckon they've covered it in 830 miles, but when you're thinking in those terms, another seven doesn't matter. There's been more planning in this than anything I've done in my life."

Bill - recovering from his first hip replacement, awaiting the second - heads a five-strong support team. There'll be two vans, Sharon's almost psychadelically decorated, and someone always following behind on a bike.

They did a 200 mile trial run in July, which worried her a bit. "I was pretty tired going into that but I was also confident and it made me fearful of it, which is a good thing. It shocked me into reality."

She accepts, this golden Gayter, that it's going to take an awful lot out of her, not least because of the asthma. "You're not going to find the same Sharon towards the end of all that, no smiles or please or thank you. It'll be me that's the grumbling Gayter, not Bill.

"I'd like to be running again by Christmas, maybe just a little 50-miler, but you just don't know because it's a world record attempt and world records don't come easily."

Next March, however, she's entered an unsupported 190k race across the Libyan desert. "I've always fancied the challenge of the desert," she says.

So then what? "I don't know. The John O'Groats record really is the ultimate challenge for me. Maybe I'll try to run round the world."

She hopes to reach journey's end at dawn on September 15. Another Witch report thereafter.

* Donations to Asthma UK in support of Sharon's run can be made via



As if being back in the Arngrove Northern league weren't excitement enough for energetic Bishop Auckland FC secretary Tony Duffy, yet greater joys await. In February he's off to Australia for another gathering of the prisoner Cell Block H Appreciation Society.

The television series, about a women's detention centre in Melbourne, ran to 692 episodes between 1979-86, but has clearly not passed its cell-by.

When a Swedish television channel decided against a re-run, a huge demonstration outside the studios obliged them to reconsider.

Tony - a driving school owner and the man behind the much spotted "Bishop Auckland" union jack during the World Cup finals - hasn't just seen every episode umpteen times but now has a DVD embracing every penal moment.

"It's just perfect television," he says. "It went on so long that some of the original characters came back in a different role. A few are now in Neighbours.

"They're lovely people and we're quite well known in Australia now. They even stop filming to talk to us."

It'll probably mean missing a couple of midwinter matches. "Unfortunately," says Tony, "that's a price I'll have to pay."

Norton and Stockton Ancients' programme last Saturday profiled striker Tyson Masters, a former member of the Australian under 17 and under 21 five-a-side teams. Usual antipodean stuff - nickname Skippy, favourite food koala, favourite football team, "anyone but England." Favourite television programme? Prisoner Cell Block H.

Last Friday's report on Accrington Stanley's return to the Football League prompted a response from several readers - though none, however shaggily, has been able to suggest how the Canine Workmen's Club in Accrington town centre came by its pedigree name.

Colin McNeillie, now in Newton Aycliffe but an Accrington resident in the 1990s, also reckons that we were mistaken to suggest that Stanley's Crown ground had an 11,000 crowd for an FA Cup tie with Gateshead.

The Gateshead match, which he attended, drew around 8,000. When Stanley drew Crewe Alexandra in the next round, the tie was switched to Ewood Park, Blackburn - attracting a five figure gate.

Accrington lost 6-1. "We were unlucky," insists Colin. "We hit the woodwork more than five times."

Tonight's the night when Tow Law Town FC hopes that silence really will be golden. Mary Hail, the voice of the Lawyers - and heard for many miles beyond - has vowed to obey a vow of silence when Premiership referee Mark Clattenberg takes part in a clubhouse talk-in.

The level of sponsorship - Clattenberg's former colleague Jeff Winter is among those who's chipped in a tenner - is matched only by the level of incredulity. "No one seems to think I can do it," says Hail, Mary.

The do's from 8pm, admission 3 including pie and peas and open to all. A word in edgeways, there'll be more on Tuesday.

Horses for courses: Martin Birtle in Billingham points out that the winner of the 4.15 at Southwell on Monday was Cream Cracker - ridden by Darryl Jacob.

Ian Porterfield, among Sunderland's great heroes of 1973, is the new manager of Armenia. "I'll use all my knowledge to get positive results," says the 60-year-old.

We'd last had a beer with him in Edinburgh - January 2005 - after he'd led Busan I'Cons to an improbable Christmas Day victory in the Korean FA Cup final.

Already he's managed national teams in Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Trinidad and Tobago, Zambia and Oman, his passport displaying more stamps than Stanley Gibbons.

A return to his native Scotland never seemed likely, however. "I love the Scottish people," his Trinidadian wife Glenda had said that day in Edinburgh, "but every time I come here it rains."

And finally...

the youngest Yorkshire cricketer to appear in the County Championship (Backtrack, August 15) was Marske lad Paul Jarvis, last heard of in Australia.

Peter Robinson in Billingham today seeks the identity of the only man to have winner's medals in the Premiership, Championship (as now it is), FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League.

The column returns on Tuesday.