Filling Up Fast...Watford Half-Marathon (Berkshire, February 3)
Be prepared for a challenging handful of hills in the opening few miles of the first big Southern half-marathon of the year.
Wokingham Half-Marathon (Berkshire, February 10)
"Some come for the glory, some come for the cakes." So reads the strapline for this testing trail race set in Wiltshire's green Pewsey Vale. And given previous reader race ratings - where comments about mouth-watering sponges appear almost as frequently as mentions of the gutsy, gritty course - it's clear this event has perfectly tapped into runners' age-old weakness for mud, hills and cake in equal measure.
It's won't only be the climbs that leave you hungry for the finish either. Some sheer descents - made all the more slippery in wet conditions - are sure to keep your heart hammering hard. Magnificent views over the downs are there for the taking though - just don't let your eyes stray too far from the track, or you could look like you've taken the race name rather too literally...
Garstang 10K (Lancashire, January 13)
Consider that the race enjoys a reputation for both its PB potential and beginner-friendliness too - despite its rolling contours - and it's no wonder runners are often heard clamouring for places well before race-day. Loyal fans are guaranteed to turn out in force for a more sobering reason this year - to honour the memory of much-loved race founder, Dave Clarke, who passed away in March.
May Hill Massacre (Gloucestershire, January 20)
That said, few feelings are likely to compare with the overwhelming sense of satisfaction that comes with reaching the finish, especially since the absence of mile markers means you'll have no choice but to grit your teeth and struggle on...
More off-road numbers...
Lakeside Canal Run Frimley 12K (Surrey, January 27)
The opening few kilometres take in some testing climbs as the route charts along leafy country roads towards Pirbright Lock, before flattening out as the course joins Basingstoke Canal for the return to Frimley Green. Softer terrain underfoot, together with pretty waterside scenery, makes for a more relaxed second half, though the addition of a teasing 3K loop around Deepcut (as you pass exasperatingly close to the finish) can seem like a mocking sting in the tail.
Spectator support was limited to early-morning dog walkers or clusters of ramblers during its inaugural staging last year, but contented entrants nevertheless reported a friendly atmosphere throughout the field.
Growing numbers of runners are looking beyond the mental and physical challenge of a marathon for their next long-distance goal, and this 40-mile point-to-point fixture along the Grand Union Canal is both the ideal introduction to ultras and great preparation for longer, multi-day events. While in previous years the race has been run in one direction only, 2008 heralds the introduction of new options - not only can entrants choose when and which direction to run, but those seeking an even greater test of endurance can complete both days, both ways (totalling 80 miles). Competitors must carry their own equipment - including adequate nutrition supplies - but checkpoints stocked with drinks and snacks are located at regular points along the towpath.
Think you're alone in being mad enough to consider this? Then a quick glance at this bustling event forum thread will soon reassure you that you're among like-minded friends.