Further than a half-marathon, but not so long that it'll scupper the following week's training, the UK's 20-mile races are the unsung heroes of spring marathon training.
Swap your usual long run for a 20-mile tune-up, and from busy start lines to drinks station etiquette, you'll be well-versed in the race-day details that add up to marathon success.
Wymondham 20 (Norfolk, March 7)
As you’d expect of a race in Norfolk, the Wymondham 20 is pancake flat. But even though that obvious attraction draws hordes of PB hunters, this charming race has much more than just fast times to offer.
A couple of laps looping through quiet country lanes is enough to put a smile on any runner’s face. And along with around 250 runners taking on the full 20 miles, you’ll have the field of the 10-mile event for company for most of the course.
Of course, if the friendly atmosphere’s not enough to keep your spirits up, the thought of the finish in Wymondham’s pretty marketplace will. Enter online now
Mad March 20 (Hampshire, March 14)
Quiet roads, regular drinks stations and a choice of distances makes the Mad March 20 perfect spring-marathon preparation. With smooth tarmac to race on and a difference of just 82ft between the highest and lowest points of the race, it's a golden opportunity to perfect your pacing. But watch out for the cut-offs - the finish for both races will close five hours after the start of the 20 mile race.
With the ten mile field joining in 15 minutes later, and famously friendly marshals lining the two-lap route, the Mad March 20 boasts a friendly bustling atmosphere whichever distance you pick. Enter online now
Finchley 20 (Middlesex, March 28)
Make this the year you try the UK’s longest-running 20-mile race. Its well-trodden course consists of four identical laps over roads and pavements, through a pleasant jumble of town and rural settings in and around Ruislip and Ickenham.
With race HQ tucked away in the top corner of Greater London, the Finchley 20 is easily reached by runners from all over the south-east and home counties, and this is reflected in its bustling and friendly field.
The four laps make the race perfect for pacing practice – there’s no excuses if your splits aren’t the same here! Enter online now
San Domenico 20 (Merthyr Tydfil, March 28)
To experience what its fans have called a real 'runners race', head to South Wales and the San Domenico 20 - a race that's fast becoming a classic. The industrial backdrop of the Welsh valleys might not seem the most promising race setting, but once you head out onto the well-maintained paths of the Taff Trail towards Abercynon you'll be blown away by the unspoilt scenery that abounds along the route.
Admire the Taff and Cynon Valleys before turning back towards Merthyr. Along the way, you'll face hills aplenty - and be prepared for the testing climb on the return leg of this out-and-back course.
A field of hardened fans and some vocal support from marshals and local people give the race a warm atmosphere, as do the plentiful supplies of Jelly Babies, homemade cakes and commemorative T-shirts waiting at the finish. Enter online now
Exe to Axe 20 (Devon, April 4)
It’s undeniably a long way from Exmouth to Seaton, but if the sun is shining the miles somehow don’t seem to matter. The rewards for this fell race’s tough climbs up the Coastal Path are ample – you’ll be treated to some of Britain’s most awe-inspiring views along the Devonshire coastline and out to sea.
With more than 4,000 feet of climbing over the point-to-point course, it goes without saying that the race requires runners made of sterner stuff, but if you take on the challenge you’ll find yourself part of a small and friendly field with times from just under three hours to more than five. And if you fancy all the views but not quite so much legwork, grab some mates and take a relay team along. Enter online now