Outside Edge: When life is a long, hard road

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The Independent Online

Congratulations to Gladys Burrill, who has been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest person to complete a marathon at the age of 92.

The "Gladyator", as she is known, a former pilot from Hawaii, competed for the first time aged 86 and completed her fifth Honolulu Marathon in a time of nine hours, 53 minutes, 16 seconds. The record had been held by Jenny Wood-Allen of Dundee, who finished the London Marathon in 2002 aged 90.

Another golden oldie is set to be celebrated on the silver screen: Laura Vikmanis of Dayton, Ohio, the oldest cheerleader in the NFL at the age of 42. As her 40th birthday approached she was seeking a new direction and, having tried golf and the drums, she went to see the Cincinnati Bengals and decided to audition for the "Ben-Gals".

They turned her down at first but Laura now performs with girls who are all at least 20 years younger than her. She's in her pom-pomp.


The number of marathons Noel Bresland will run for children's charities in memory of his nephew Ethan, who died after 223 days. Last week he ran 26.2 miles on a treadmill in the London Eye despite suffering vertigo, and also hopes to run in a plane and a hot-air balloon. He's taking the high road.

Pipe dream of old man and the sea

He should really have been enjoying his pipe and slippers but Anthony Smith, the former presenter of the BBC's Tomorrow's World programme, has sailed across the Atlantic at the age of 85 in a boat built out of 12-metre-long gas and water pipes.

He and three crew members aged from 56 to 61 – recruited from an advert in a national newspaper – spent 66 days aboard the An-Tiki to raise £50,000 for Wateraid and highlight the fact that a billion people live without clean water.

An environmental campaigner at the other end of the age scale is about to make his second attempt to become the youngest person to ski to the North Pole. Parker Liautaud, a 16-year-old pupil at Eton, had to call off last year's attempt 15 miles from the end. He will take measurements of snow and ice thickness for research into climate change. His friends must think he's cool.

Good week

Neil Wagner, the left-arm pace bowler, took five wickets in six balls for Otago against Wellington in New Zealand, only the fourth player to perform the feat in first-class cricket and the first to do so in a single over...

Snood-wearers, after Miles Howarth, 16, from Sheffield invented a scarf called "Tuggz" that comes off if pulled – snoods will be banned from July because of concerns about choking...

Sam Casson, 21, hit a hole-in-one on her first round of golf, on the fourth hole at Ingleby Barwick in Stockton-on-Tees.

Bad week

The artificial reef at Boscombe, constructed to create waves for surfers at a cost of £3.2m, has been closed after it produced dangerous undercurrents when sandbags came loose...

Diving footballers, after creative consultants Smallfry invented a shin-pad that can detect another player's proximity and any physical contact using a system of sensors and magnets...

The International Cricket Council, who presented India with a "fake" World Cup because the real one was impounded by customs in Mumbai after the governing body failed to pay £30,000 in duty.

Infants who wanna be startin' somethin'

A primary school in China has decided to dispense with traditional martial arts in its PE classes in favour of Michael Jackson dance routines.

Wan Lu, the school administrator, said: "We used to practise tai chi but the students said they wanted to do something more modern."

The 700 pupils at Duping School in Chongqing assemble in the playground every day to perform their favourite routine, the robotics from the video of his song 'Dangerous'. It's thought the kids were inspired by internet footage of prisoners in the Philippines performing 'Thriller'. Mohamed Al Fayed isn't involved.

And the Shaolin Temple Buddhist Warrior Training Base in Henan province has opened a football school for its kung fu students because according to head coach Shi Yanlu, "Chinese football is in the doldrums. When some elements of kung fu, particularly its spirit, are integrated into soccer we hope it will help improve the training level of football". Eric Cantona isn't involved.