Not Goals

A wide, chalky path running out of view as it disappears down a steep slope in the South Downs near Cissbury Ring, overlaid by the Ordinary Runner logo - not goals

Maybe I’m projecting here, but I think it’s fair to say that we runners love a goal.

I know I do.

Or did.

Once upon a time, I’d set running goals like a baker sets cheesecake (as in ‘often,’ rather than ‘in the fridge’).

Sure, most of my goals would be set in January, but you know how it goes – things change, new goals come along, etc., etc.

The point I’m making is, like the baker with their cheesecake, I’d set a lot of goals.

Take 2022, for example

I started the year with a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve.

  • Lose weight (gah!)
  • Fix a lingering foot pain.
  • Run the Worthing Half Marathon for the first time (despite first entering in 2019).
  • Take part in the Maverick “Middle” distance race around Slindon College… again (perhaps, even improve on my time from the year before).
  • Do most of my running on the South Downs.
  • Run further than the previous year.
  • Do “a lot more” strength and conditioning work.
  • Ideally, add many more posts to this blog as well.

If you’ve already read my first post from 2023, you’ll know that none of this happened.

Except the lingering foot pain bit. That’s gone.

I started the year with a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve.

So, what the flip happened?

If you haven’t already read my first post from 2023, I’ll summarise for you now.

After a decent January, I got injured and barely ran all year.

Also, I only added one blog post.

And that’s it.

That was 2022.

It was hugely disappointing (running-wise. Other good stuff happened).

Not Goals

With all that in mind, I decided to approach this year differently.

This year, I decided to set myself some Not Goals.

And, almost two months in, I’ve been reflecting on those Not Goals.

So far, they seem to be going well.

In fact, they’re going better than I expected

You see, by setting Not Goals, I’ve given myself more freedom to enjoy my running.

To explain why, let’s travel back in time. About 12 months should do it.

Off the back of a strong January, I hobbled into February with the realisation that I wouldn’t be doing much running for a while.

The Worthing Half Marathon was looming. My training plan pointed to increased distances. And I was coming round to the idea that I wouldn’t be toeing the line.

I’d already missed one event – a 14km run around the Downs near Amberly – and it seemed certain that I’d miss another.

At the time, I didn’t know just how little running the year would include. But it felt like this wasn’t a short-term injury.

My goals were crumbling like a dry biscuit. While that might be fine for a cheesecake base, it’s not good for an even moderately ambitious runner.

And, as a moderately ambitious runner, I wasn’t a happy bunny.

On Highdown Hill in the South Downs National Park, looking West towards Angmering - the ordinary runner - not goals
A lot better

Leaping forward to now

Things are looking a lot better.

The injury that plagued 2022 still isn’t sorted. But that doesn’t matter.

As I don’t have a set of goals hanging over every run, I’m not concerned about missing any runs.

And that means that when I do run, I can enjoy it for what it is. Just a run.

It also means that when I don’t run, it doesn’t matter. Because it was just a run (that I didn’t do).

If I miss a run, I haven’t failed to hit a target.

If I miss a run, I don’t have to make up for it with an extra run or add more miles onto my next run.

And because I’m not pushing myself to do a race that I’ve already forked out mega bucks for, if I miss a run, I’m not worrying about all the money I’ll waste by not making it to the race.

In fact, whether I run or I don’t run, it’s the same thing.

There’s no downside… probably.

Whether I run or I don’t run, it’s the same thing.

Okay, so Not Goals will mean no PBs


But you know what? I’m fine with that.

I’m well into my 40s, so PBs are a thing of the past anyway.


(Even if they otherwise weren’t, they are now.)

Besides, not worrying about PBs means not having to do intervals or hill sessions or any of those other things we do because we think they’re an important part of running.

By the way, those things might still be an important part of running for you. Don’t let this grumpy old git persuade you that they’re not important if you think they are.

The point I’m making is that they’re not important for me. Not anymore. Not when I have Not Goals to not worry about.

Not practicing yoga every day

One of my Not Goals was to “do yoga”.

I left it deliberately vague because it’s a Not Goal. Not Goals aren’t specific – I’d argue that it’s the specificity that defines goals as goals in the first place.

When I set the Not Goal to do yoga, my intention was to do yoga every day.

At the time, I was leaping out of bed at 6am every morning, hoping to form a habit that made it easy to leap out of bed at 6am every morning.

As it turned out, I’m not the leaping out of bed at 6am every morning type of person that I’d imagined I could be.

But because it’s a Not Goal, it was easy to change – especially the 6am part.

So, I rephrased it.

Now, rather than “I’ll do yoga every day,” it’s “today, I’ll practice yoga.”

It’s a subtle, but important change (ignoring the use of the word ‘practice’ in place of ‘do’, which is a less subtle, but still important change).

It means that I don’t fail anything by missing a day.

It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sure I’ll not practice yoga one day. It may even be that there’s a day where I don’t say “today, I’ll practice yoga.”

And if that happens, the following day, I’ll practice yoga.

Despite all these Not Goals, I am running

Looking up the steep climb from Hill Barn to Cissbury Ring in the South Downs national park - the ordinary runner - not goals
I enjoyed this

I’m really enjoying it, as well.

I recently did an almost four mile run from Hill Barn up to Cissbury Ring and back down again.

Add that to another recent run over Highdown Hill, and I’ve already done as many runs on the Downs in 2023 as I did in all of 2022.

Not that that’s a Not Goal. But it is hugely enjoyable.

And that’s the point.

As I huffed up the hill towards Cissbury Ring, I thought, “this is great. The run, obviously. But also the fact that I’m not bothered by targets or times or distance or anything.”

I was running for the joy of running.

And it really was a joy, despite the hills.

Which, I guess, is what the point of all of this is: the joy of running.

And I’ve rediscovered it.

Which makes me a very happy bunny indeed.

Now, where’s that cheesecake?