The uniquely awesome Sharon Gayter was within 20 miles of Lands End – and of a truly incredible world record – as today’s column was being tucked up.

The 55-year-old former bus driver from Guisborough was expected to reach the end of the epic foot slog from John o’ Groats by about 6pm last night, slicing around six hours from the existing women’s world best.

“She’s desperately tired, her body in further stages of breakdown,” said support team member Trevor McDermott.

Sharon, now a lecturer at Teesside University business school, had collapsed through exhaustion late on Monday evening, unable to feel her legs. After a relatively long sleep – she’s been averaging under four hours – she ran 58 miles the following day.

A further three hours had been added to the timings after she became inextricably lost amid construction works in Preston. Near Monmouth she encountered 8ft steel barriers across the road. Sharon somehow squeezed under them, her cycle support team went over the top.

Supporters around the world have been mapping her pained progress via an internet tracking device – dot watchers, they call themselves. “She brings a little sunshine into our lives, vitamin D for the soul,” one wrote

Running from Lands End to John o’ Groats, she’d set a record of 13 days, ten hours and a minute in 2006, saw it taken from her, hoped after leaving John o’ Groats at 7.30am on Sunday July 21 to set a new record of under 12 days.

That she didn’t quite make that one is almost irrelevant. She will again be a world beater, the most extraordinary feat of athleticism, courage and sheer indomitability in my 55 years in journalism.

Was it the old enfeebled eyesight or was that really 1973 UP heading along Bob Hardisty Drive in Bishop Auckland the other morning?

1973 needs no explaining to at least half of the North-East. UP was the old registration for Co Durham. 1 UP’s worth a fortune, 7 UP little less.

The golf club lads reckoned they’d seen 1973 UP in the car park – lady driver, doubtless careful – though Sunderland fanzine editor Paul Dobson, who lives just a cockstride from Bob Hardisty Drive, is more puzzled.

“CUP 73 is an old favourite and there are several containing 5AFC but I’ll have to look out for this one,” he says.

At the time of the email exchange he was in Plockton, on the Scottish coast opposite Skye and base of the wonderful 1980s television series Hamish Macbeth. It’s there that he discovered the good ship Mackem, with which he’s photographed.

“Apparently the owner’s from Sunderland but I haven’t yet found him,” says Paul. He’s onto that one, too.

Kevin Stonehouse, who died last weekend, was a Shildon lad and proud of it. Though playing football had taken him all over England, and scouting for Newcastle United all over the world, he knew there was no place like home (and thus may be forgiven for moving to Newton Aycliffe.)

After almost 100 games for Darlington, he’d also become an inspirational football in the community manager during George Reynolds’s time as club chairman. He was 59.

We’d last been together two years ago at a talk-in at Shildon’s clubhouse – no charge, of course – Kevin endlessly entertaining, wholly relaxed and and full of stories.

Someone even recalled that he’d sung with the local amateur operatic society in the 1975 production of Oliver. “One of Fagin’s boys,” said Kevin. “It’s what you did in those days; these days they smash up bus shelters.”

More recently, he talked of watching a Germany v Austria Under 21s match at which a young German forward particularly impressed. “Sign for development,” he recommended on his report to the club and, soon afterwards, received a call from his boss.

“Bit late for that, Kevin,” he said, “Manchester City have just signed him for £47m.”

Always assiduous, Kevin vowed even more thoroughly to do his homework – and goodness only knows how much Leroy Sane is worth today.

We reported a fortnight ago that Jack Chapman, author of that wonderful Durham club cricket history Cream Teas and Nutty Slack, was ill following a stroke.

It prompted Malcolm Dunstone in Darlington to visit Waterstone’s, only to find the book out of print. The helpful assistant checked Amazon, discovered that the cheapest “used” copy was £188. Malcolm can borrow mine.

Jack remains in Sunderland Royal Infirmary but is said to be getting stronger by the day. He’s been told about Amazon bargains, too.

Those familiar with Darlington will know that the workmen’s clubs at Hopetown and Harrowgate Hill are about a mile-and-a-half apart. Last week’s 5s and 3s league annual presentation was held in the former, which doesn’t explain why two of our team – independently of one another – pitched up at the latter.

Not for nothing are we the Brainless Britannia B.

The singer may have become lost, too. Certainly he didn’t turn up. That was the bad news, said the MC, though not everyone would have agreed.

Maggie May, the comedienne, also sang, did three spots – Maggie Mayday – reckoned that her grandad was known as Spiderman. “It’s not that he’s a superhero, he just finds it hard to get out of the bath.”

The really good news was that, for the second time in seven years, are bottom division boys won the league knockout cup. Hopetown and glory.

….and finally, the T20 counties with the suffixes Falcons, Vikings and Rapids – last week’s column – are Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Worcestershire.

Had Jack Leach not holed out on 92 last week, he’d have become the first English night watchman to record a century. The nearest, 20 years ago, was 99. Readers are invited to identify the sleepless hero.

With the annual foray into the Feversham Cricket League, the column returns next week.