Local races my aim is to finish ahead of 1st lady as that is about the pace I aim at. Bigger races not so much - although London I was ahead of 99% . Local races anyone who gets past and stays ahead gets encouragement and a well done. It is racing after all so whoever is around me I will try and beat.
I usually do some hill repeats - once a week intervals and hill repeats on alternate weeks and then try and add as many hills into medium and long runs as I can. Some gym work can strengthen legs which can help with the downhills as well.
No refunds, paying upfront no better. GFA is guaranteed - not guaranteed they won't move the goalposts again so best to get well within. Lots of other lovely UK marathons . did London Sunday and must admit it was a great atmosphere and ran a GFA so I will go back.