The oldest person to finish a marathon in the UK this year was forced to pretend he was younger in order to enter Reading Half Marathon.

Lifelong runner Tom Harrison, 85, from Spencers Wood, near Reading, had to fake being born in 1940 due to restrictions on the competition’s website for the 2022 race.

His complaint led Gold Line Events to add older birth dates to the registration process, but Mr Harrison questioned whether the initial restriction was "ageist."

“Come on guys, I may be slower than I used to be, but I am still taking in oxygen,” said Mr Harrison, adding that it was disappointing after facing the same problem with other races in Berkshire.

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Mr Harrison was the only runner aged 85 or over to complete a marathon in 2021, at a speed of 5hrs and 55mins, according to Run Britain Rankings.

He explained that he took up running and rambling after being court marshalled by the Royal Army for homosexuality in 1963.

“I was lucky I didn’t go to prison really. Of course that was normal in 1963. People don’t realise just how grim it was if you were gay then.”

The former Captain of the Service Core said he moved back in with his parents aged 26 and running helped him through the difficult period.

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“When I got slung out of the army and I went to live with my parents, something possessed me to join a local rambling club.

“I remember thinking thank goodness for the weekends, getting out with the rambling club is so stress relieving and the same applies to the running club.”

He found a career in the activity, starting a company, English Wonderer, which provided walking tours for ramblers for 21 years.

Since retiring, he has worked another two decades for Cotswold outdoor and is currently training to work with Berkshire Vision, helping people with visual impairments to take walks.

Though he was disappointed by Reading Half Marathon’s website software, he said it was no setback for his passion for running.

“Let’s put it like this. If during the blitz you had to sleep under a heavy, oak dining-room table because the roof might come down, you don’t get phased by too many things.”

A spokesperson for Gold Line Events said the organisation apologised to Mr Harrison after receiving his complaint and that they corrected the website by December 6.

“The website had reset to the ‘default’ template settings when we opened the 2022 entries, as soon as Mr Harrison pointed this out we corrected it and apologised to him,” they said.

“We pride ourselves on being accessible and open to all and regularly see entries from runners over the age of 80.”

The spokesperson pointed to previous participants, such as an 88-year-old person who competed in 2019 and an 87-year-old who competed in 2018.