Not Goals – a reflection on 2023

The Ordinary Runner - Not Goals a reflection on 2023 - View from near the top of Cissbury Ring in the South Downs, with a track running down the right hand side and green, hilly scenery beneath a cloudy sky taking up the rest of the image

Or, musings on an injury and setting Not Goals

Early 2023, I posted a post about not posting a lot in 2022.

The reason I didn’t post a lot in 2022 was, mostly, because I didn’t run a lot in 2022. What I did, was learn about intention, motivation and not setting unachievable goals.

With those lessons in mind, I chose not to set myself any goals for 2023. Instead, I went with Not Goals.

My 2023 Not Goals were:

  1. Get my injury sorted,
  2. Don’t be despondent,
  3. Do yoga,
  4. Lose weight,
  5. Try harder to write this blog.

It’s fair to say that I was semi-successful in achieving these Not Goals.

How were my Not Goals semi-successful?

Not Goal 1: Get my injury sorted.

The year started well. By which I mean: I was able to run. In fact, by the end of January, I’d done more than 50km – a third of my 2022 total. By the end of March, I was within reach of the previous year’s distance and still going strong. By the time July rolled around, I’d doubled the distance I managed the year before, and my injury felt like a distant memory. Happy days!

Throughout July, I continued to wrack up the miles, as well as finding plenty of elevation over the South Downs. Life was good. Sure, I had no pace to speak of, but that was fine – I didn’t need it. I had hills and nature and a rediscovered love of running. And no injury.

July ended with a visit from my cousin, Nicola, a veteran of more than 250 parkruns. Together, we ran Worthing parkrun, then enjoyed a lovely breakfast in Coast Café. It was a treat to catch up and an honour to share my local parkrun with her.

Later that day (unrelated to Nicola’s visit), I broke a rib and didn’t run again for almost month.

The river Avon running alongside Monkton Park in Chippenham in August 2023 - not one of my Not Goals, but a lovely trip to Chippenham parkrun all the same.
The River Avon running through Monkton Park

I returned to running in late August. This included a trip to Nicola’s local parkrun, in the town where I was born. That was a real running highlight for me… plodding around Monkton Park on a cloudy Saturday morning. I’ve not done much parkrun tourism and I’m glad one of my few away days includes that one.

Unfortunately, the running highlights pretty much stop there. Looking back at August and September, it’s clear what happened. It’s the same as so often happens to runners coming back from injury. I came back too quickly. Then I knackered myself all over again.

The same injury – the one that knobbled me throughout 2022 – was back. With a vengeance.

Not Goal 1 – semi-successful. Or, successful, then unsuccessful

Not Goal 2: Don’t be despondent.

I got used to not being a runner in 2022. So much so, I felt like an imposter when I finally got back into it. As I toed the line at parkrun or squelched along the foreshore in an attempt to Beat the Tide, I didn’t feel l really belonged. It took me back to when I first started running, huffing heavily along the streets in inappropriately baggy shorts that flapped like a tatty flag.

Despite that, I was happy to be running again. Especially when I hit the trails. There was no imposter syndrome on the trails. Mostly because the only other beings out there were dog walkers and sheep, and either they didn’t care how much I huffed and puffed, or I was too out of breath to notice.

The fact I was running meant I had no need for despondency. Which was great, until I wasn’t running.

Beating the tide on Worthing seafront.

Photo credit:
Beating the Tide in 2023

Come early October, when the old injury flared up again, I expected a familiar slump into moodiness. But it didn’t happen. It seems 2022 gave me a big slice of resilience. Considering I didn’t feel like a proper runner (I know, if you run, you’re a runner), it didn’t seem like anything was really missing when I found myself not running again.

However I look at it, despondency at not running wasn’t an issue last year. Even when I wasn’t running. That feels like a win to me.

Not Goal 2 – successful

Not Goal 3: Do yoga.

I started the year trying to form a new habit: get up at 6am every day to seek union between breath and body. This went on for a few weeks, until I remembered that I don’t do early mornings (I don’t do late nights either). (I quite enjoy an afternoon nap as well, when the chance comes along.)

This Not Goal bent and stretched throughout the early months of last year. The more I practiced, the more I realised that “do yoga every day” isn’t in keeping with the purpose of practicing yoga. So, being a Not Goal, it was flexible. Unlike me. With this in mind, I made a subtle change – rather than telling myself that I’ll do yoga every day, each day I invited myself to practice yoga.

Eventually, the day came when I didn’t practice. That opened the floodgates to more days where I didn’t practice. Historically, that would have sounded the death knell to my practice in general. I’m like that. Or, at least, I have been like that in the past. This time, my practice continued, even when I missed several days at a time.

Don’t stop the yoga when I start running again.

That is, until I started running again, when I most needed to work on my strength and flexibility. At that point, I stopped working on my strength and flexibility. I didn’t make this connection at the time – my brain is often a bit slow – and I’m sure this played a big part in my return to injury. There’s a lesson for future me.

Once the injury returned, I picked up the practice again. Eventually. And I’ve carried on into the New Year, though with none of the frequency I attempted at the start of last year. For that reason, I’m going to call this one a success. Sure, I didn’t form the habit I’d intended. Instead, I adapted and found a good rhythm to my practice.

And I learned a big lesson – don’t stop the yoga when I start running again.

Not Goal 3 – successful

Not Goal 4: Lose weight.


The description for this Not Goal ended with a mantra: “be less greedy, drink less beer.”

I didn’t do either.

I’ve started 2024 well, though. I didn’t drink at all in January and, as of mid-February, I’ve only drunk twice. Once was a couple of beers, the other just a small Limoncello. An upcoming trip to Bruges will no doubt involve a beer or two (it would be rude not to), but otherwise, I’m enjoying not drinking.

As for being less greedy – so far, that’s also going quite well this year. I’ve not tested any of this on the scales, but I definitely feel like I’ve shed a bit of belly. Admittedly, a year later than planned.

Not Goal 4 – unsuccessful (with a good start to 2024)

Not Goal 5: Try harder to write this blog.

In the original post, I said “I don’t want to start next year with the first post since this one.”

I wrote one other post in 2023, which was a continuation of the first.

Must try harder.

Not Goal 5 – unsuccessful

What are my Not Goals for 2024?

Honeysuckle Lane near Worthing in the South Downs National Park - more running around here was definitely part of my Not Goals for 2023
Honeysuckle Lane

I’m going to go with more of the same Not Goals. Life is a journey and, as such, we must keep putting one foot in front of the other. I see no reason to reinvent anything for 2024. My intentions remain the same and I will carry on along the same path, making the most of the momentum I’ve built up.

Not Goal 1:

I’ve been seeing an osteopath about my injury (more on that in future posts).

Not Goal 2:

I’ll continue to swerve despondency in times when running isn’t available. So far, so good.

Not Goal 3:

My yoga practice goes from strength to strength, with a big chunk of strength and conditioning work thrown in, much of it specific to my injury.

Not Goal 4:

I’ve already started on the right path to weight loss, even if it’s another year harder.

Not Goal 5:

And I’ve set myself a target (and a loose plan) of at least one post per month… starting now.

Wish me luck. If Not Goal five is a success, you’ll know exactly how I get on.

Image credits: Beat the Tide – Lupuskool on flickr