ENTER RACES OF PROGRESSIVELY LONGER DISTANCES
Running races is totally different from training, because racing produces its own peculiar stresses: the presence of a large number of experienced runners, learning to pace oneself, fighting to grab sponges, and the confusion caused by trying to drink at Exercisess.
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So it is best to run a number of short-distance races before you tackle a standard marathon. Thus, by the time you run your first marathon you can concentrate on what it takes to go the distance rather than be confused by all the distractions that surround racing. I suggest that you run races of 4, 8, 10, 12, 16, 21, 24, and 32 km before trying the marathon. You should run a 56- to 60-km race before tackling an ultramarathon of 90 to 100 km.
These races will also provide opportunities to practice the advice for racing given in post 9 and to establish a pace you will likely run in a marathon.