2023 in Review

Published in Personal - 23 mins to read

Last year I set myself 9 goals, and wrote that I would likely give up on most of them. I turned out to be absolutely right - I only fully completed one of the goals, achieved ~80% completion of two, achieved ~50% completion on another two, ~20% on three and made 0 progress on the final goal. I’m not disappointed about this at all - I achieved a lot this year that I’m really proud of - but I’m going to take a different approach to setting goals for 2024 in light of it.

Before that however, I want to review how the past year has gone for me. I’m going to divide this into four key areas of my life, in approximately ascending order of importance to me; career, running, community and relationships, and health.


This year has been the most interesting of my career so far. I spent it working for a global household name, and one of the biggest companies on the planet. When I got the job, I felt like I’d made it, that all my hard work had borne fruit, and now I would reap the rewards. This turned out to be true in some ways, and false in others.

One of the ways it was true is that I now have access to an overwhelming amount of tribal technical knowledge. The majority of software engineering problems have already been solved by someone at the company, so when I’m faced with one of my own, the first step is often to seek the counsel of others, or to search vast internal documentation and repositories. Everyone I work with is extremely competent. I would say that the median employee at my present company is approximately as good as the most proficient employees at my previous company. I am inspired by the people around me on a regular basis, and that is a truly wonderful and joyous thing. Lastly, I have gained instant credibility with many people when I tell them who I work for. Part of me knows this is unfair, but part of me enjoys it, and it’s clearly useful in networking situations.

On the other hand, it has been incredibly stressful at times - so stressful in fact that it’s impacted not only my mental health, but my physical health too. Earlier in the year, during a particularly intense period at work, I had my first eczema breakout in over 15 years, and while it is nowhere near as bad as it was in April, it’s not gone completely. There is inevitably a lot of internal politics at such a large company, and learning how to navigate that is a skill that I’m going to have to acquire if I want to succeed - something I was totally naive about before joining. Part of being surrounded by immensely talented people, while in a high-pressure environment, is that I haven’t felt good enough to be there, and have felt like I constantly had to fight for my place. I’ve invested more time into improving my own productivity this year than in any one previous, and I feel like I am only now starting to understand what it means to work hard as a programmer.

It’s difficult to evaluate what exactly this year has meant for my career as a whole. If working on my productivity, technical skills, stress management and internal political navigation mean that next year turns out to have all of the good parts of this year without the same emotional toll, then it could mark a significant acceleration in my career trajectory. If, however, my work substantively negatively affects my health again next year, then I will be forced to re-evaluate my priorities and career aspirations.


This year was, on the whole, extremely successful for running. In March I was comfortably the fittest I’ve ever been, and broke both the 20 minute 5k barrier running 19:21 and the 1:30 half-marathon barrier in 1:28:20. With these two major milestones complete, the only remaining target on the roads I feel motivated by currently is a sub-3 marathon.

At the end of March I started being coached by Sophie Grant, who has turned out to be not only a great coach but also an absolute legend. Sophie has not only helped me become a better runner, but has also inspired (and, at times, enabled) me. Some concrete ways that I’ve benefitted from her coaching:

I started 4 ultras, one longer “A” race and three shorter “B” races. My “A” race was the Andorra Trail 100, which was also both the longest distance I’d attempted and the most ascent/descent, and turned out to take the longest duration. Of the four races, this one definitely went the best of them, which is obviously the way I would’ve chosen for it to happen. I had a solid plan, and I was also able to adapt the plan successfully throughout the course of the race. One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the race was that it was nowhere near as totalising as the EUT had been the previous year (or indeed as the Arc has turned out to be - discussed below).

The other three ultras, all 50ks, had some element go wrong. For Ultra Trail Snowdonia, I was anxious about travelling on my own and about the race in general, and I ended up binging the day before. I still tried to stick to my aggressive nutrition plan during the race, despite my stomach feeling awful, and eventually I threw up about 8 hours in and practically crawled to the finish. Fortunately, now I’ve made this mistake once I can prepare for it next time, and the only goal of this race was to finish and collect 2 tickets for the UTMB lottery, which I did.

For Glen Coe Skyline, I wasn’t fit enough, didn’t have enough experience on technical terrain, and didn’t have enough experience or knowledge of being in the mountains in adverse weather conditions. At checkpoint 6 (of 13), I found out that the race would be shut after checkpoint 9 due to the high winds, and I took my foot off the gas so to speak. I missed what would have been the cutoff to continue at checkpoint 9 due to moving so slowly between the final 3 checkpoints, a big part of which was due to not feeling comfortable in weather conditions that, in retrospect, I was still completely safe in. Technically this means I DNFed, although I don’t feel any great sense of sadness about this.

For the GUN31, I was still not fit enough (this time I had been injured for ~a month and only got back to running consistently about three weeks before the race), and I was complacent about the course and the cutoffs. Figuring I knew the course well, I didn’t think too much about the pace plan, resolving to take it fairly easy in the first half and then trying to maintain a similar pace in the second (looking at previous results, most finishers ran the second half ~30% slower than the first). Quite early on, I realised that if I continued at my planned leisurely pace, I was in fact going to miss the tight cutoff at halfway, and so I had to increase my effort, and particularly in the last 5k to the turnaround point, I was pushing quite hard. As soon as I began the return leg, I realised that I’d burned many of my matches, and it was going to be a long journey home. In the end, ironically I too finished the second half ~30% slower than the first, in a total time that was about 15% longer than I’d been hoping for.

Even though I’ve just outlined how several of the races I did this year didn’t go to plan, I actually feel incredibly positive about them. It seems obvious to me that much of the success I have enjoyed in my professional career has come about as a direct consequence of my repeated failures, and when it comes to running, I haven’t really failed much. These races allowed me to learn something valuable and applicable to future races in a very cheap way - I still achieved my “A” goals in all these races! I still bagged 2 Running Stones at UTS, GCS I ran a race that was well outside my comfort zone without being brutally long (and comfortably and competently completed a grade III scramble en route), and running in the dark for 8 hours at the GUN was great training for running in the dark for 14 hours in the Arc next month.

One thing I still don’t seem to have right is training cycles and/or managing chronic load. Between October 2022 and March I gained a lot of fitness, and then between March and October 2023 I slowly lost a lot of it, before again beginning to gain fitness… which is exactly what happened last year. I understand that fitness levels will naturally fluctuate and that expecting them to only ever go up is unrealistic, but in my case I think the fluctuations are significantly larger than they have to be. I don’t have a particularly good model for why I manage to train so successfully during the winter months but then lose a large fraction of that fitness through the spring and summer. Part of it could be that I am essentially overtraining during those winter months, and while my body may be able to handle it, psychologically it’s unsustainable, and it’s a kind of mental fatigue that in fact stops me from sustaining that amount of training year round. Another is that I was particularly stressed at work in March and April, and this took a toll on my physical health that also took a few months to recover from. I’m hopeful that between being coached by Sophie for the full year, and working to make holistic improvements to my health (discussed below), in 2024 I can reduce the amount of time I spend detraining.

This year I ran ~3100km with over 40000m of elevation gain, all in just shy of 360 hours of running. Next year I’d love to see those numbers closer to 3500km, 50000m and 400 hours!

Community and Relationships

Effective Altruism

This year I was in some ways more engaged with Effective Altruism than in 2022, but crucially it held less of a monopoly over my social life and intellectual interests. I view this as an extremely healthy step in the right direction.

Coming out of 2022, I, just like everyone else in the community, was deeply uncertain about what lay in store for EA in a post-FTX world. I became less willing to accept arguments made by respected community members at face value, sought to make sure my engagement with EA was proportionate and sustainable, and clarified and admitted many of my reservations about EA - all things many people in the community were also doing. Ultimately, I felt like there were two options - disengage with EA, and try and find an alternative community that would offer me what EA does but had fewer issues, or continue to engage with EA and try to influence it (in some minuscule part) to address some of its perceived problems. It seemed extremely unlikely to me that I could find an alternative community that would be a meaningful improvement on EA. My friend Gemma recently knocked it out the park with this blog post coming to the same conclusion, and I endorse most things she says in it (I am marginally less bearish on crypto than she is).

There have been two major changes in my engagement with EA this year. Firstly, I’ve been co-running the EA London Tech group alongside Sam Watts, who I look up to a lot and feel grateful to be able to work with. Organising the group has been rewarding and challenging; I’ve grown my network significantly (and gained status in some circles), acquired some useful skills, and generally feel like the work that I’ve done towards the group has been positive thing for its members and potentially the world at large. On the other hand, it has frequently been stress-and-anxiety inducing, and taxing on my time and energy. Overall I think it’s been positive, and I am excited to continue in 2024, but I also want to make some changes in order to make it less burdensome. I wrote another post outlining some of the things I learned in the course of running the group this year.

The second major change is that I took the Giving What We Can pledge. Overall I feel extremely good about it so far. The GWWC community has been exceptionally welcoming, which makes the whole process feel a lot easier. It is a huge relief to actually be doing something good, rather than just talking about hypothetically good things in the abstract. I do occasionally have thoughts along the lines of “I wish I could afford X - if only I had X it would bring me so much joy”. Those thoughts are accompanied by a slight pang of regret about the pledge, and worry that I made the wrong choice. So far, whenever I notice that emotion, it has been relatively straightforward to realise that in fact having X would not bring me the joy I think it would, and that thought is a trap. At this point I have a fairly overwhelming amount of experience suggesting this is the case; it’s kind of amazing my brain is still stuck in that particular loop. Another extremely pleasant side effect of taking the pledge was that I invested a lot of time in improving my understanding of my own finances, and the options available to me, to ensure I was well-placed before taking the pledge. This has already paid dividends outside of allowing me to donate, and I expect the value I gain from it to compound in years to come.

My feelings about EA have waxed and waned over the year. EAG London was a particular highlight, while reading about the various community dramas online has been a lowlight. This seems pretty fine and normal, especially considering I feel a lot more bullish on my local in-person EA community than I do the online community.

Friends and Local Community

This year has likely been the best for my platonic relationships since my first year of university, and potentially even surpasses that. I have invested a huge amount of time into new friendships since being in London, and have often wondered if this was a mistake as it can leave me feeling socially burned out. Now, I feel wholly vindicated in these decisions; I have a group of friends who live near me, who I feel connected and close to, who feel not just like friends but like a community. It has been a lot of work, but I am so proud of myself for doing it, and I believe I’m beginning to reap the rewards.

One of the ways in which I’ve achieved this is by hosting approximately monthly dinner parties, to which we invite a large number of people (I shamelessly stole this idea off Nathan Young, as I have attended many of his own dinners of this nature). The first one was in April, and we’ve done six so far, with attendance ranging from 12 to 25. This has been a great way to stay connected to a lot of people at once, and provides a low-pressure pathway for me to progress people from acquaintances to friends. Having a whole group of your friends in your flat at a time is a great feeling - I feel held and loved every time. I get a lot out of them, although I am conscious that my partner, Jess sometimes finds them quite stressful. As with other things in this review, I’m keen to go into next year with a plan to maximise the good aspects of this and minimise the not-so-good ones.

Another pleasant but unexpected side effect is that some of my other friends have started doing something similar, so now I get to enjoy their home and cooking, and potentially make other new, local friends (obviously it’s probably not the case that they counterfactually wouldn’t have started doing this were it not for our dinners, but still). I’ve also found a group of people who all live nearby to go running will, but in a far more informal, ad-hoc way than as part of a running club. These have further added to the sense of local community that I have been able to cultivate for myself.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I have become particularly close friends with two men who I live near. I have historically always found it difficult to become particularly close with other men, experiencing an overwhelming amount of fear of intimacy or vulnerability with them. This has often left me feeling frustrated at myself, for not being brave or authentic in my male relationships. But, finally, with these two I have been able to build the kind of close friendships that I’ve always wanted more of. I think these friendships blossoming now, and not earlier, has been a result of a combination of the work I’ve done on myself, the investment I made/chances I took in these specific relationships, and simply rolling the potential-friend dice enough times that I came across men that I could finally relax and be myself around.

Romantic Relationship

This has been my first full year living with Jess, and cohabiting with a partner is something which I’d never done before this. Overall it’s been incredibly rewarding. I’ve grown a lot as both a partner and a person, and I’ve experienced the joy of watching her do the same. She has been a bastion of stability for me, which has done wonders for my health, and I hope that I have been able to offer her some small fraction of that in return.

This is not to say that things have been perfect - of course there have been ups and downs, disagreements and difficult conversations. But overall I feel that we have dealt with these in a mature, and largely sustainable way, and further more we have improved the way which we deal with these challenges over time.

As alluded to above, I find myself feeling grateful almost to the point of tears when thinking about the people who choose to invest their time and energy into me. Being inspired by coaches or coworkers is one thing, but to live with someone who inspires you every single day is entirely another. I can only hope that 2024 will be more of the same.


One big theme of this year when it came to my health was trying to remove the distinction between mental and physical health, and instead try to see everything as interconnected. My thoughts had probably been trending this way for some time, but after getting extremely stressed caused me to have eczema, I finally internalised quite how strong the link between brain and body is.

I didn’t have any anything more than a couple of fairly minor bouts of depression this year, and I seem to be slowly getting less anxious. I think the latter is a mixture of simply getting older, and exposure therapy of living in a bustling major city. The most significant health problem I’ve faced has certainly been stress. As mentioned above, I have been trying to optimise my stress reduction strategy at work, and I have begun taking meditation more seriously as a way of managing stress. I’m cautiously optimistic about improving this both inside and outside work, and am prepared to take significant action if this continues to affect my health negatively in 2024.

This year I became somewhat close to being de facto teetotal. In general I didn’t drink at all during any of my training blocks, and only got drunk twice all year - once at a friend’s birthday, and once at a wedding. I would guess the last time I drank this little in a year, I was 15. This seems to have been a big improvement in my health, without having to pay the social costs I previously feared were associated.

Another major step was that I admitted to myself that I needed help when it came to my relationship with food and my body. Despite writing about it somewhat coherently back in 2022, it took me a while longer to appreciate the amount of psychic damage that I was suffering on a daily basis, and then even more time to accept that I wasn’t finding it tractable on my own. I’m hugely ashamed of many of the beliefs, thoughts and feelings I have on this subject, and that’s made it hard to talk to loved ones about it, including my partner, and hard to get help.

I had most of a course of CBT for eating disorders on the NHS. Part of me is still hugely reluctant to label myself as having an eating disorder, as I don’t feel like my symptoms are that severe, but also multiple medical professionals decided it was appropriate for me to have literal therapy for eating disorders, so I know I ought to defer to their judgment, even if I do so begrudgingly. Unfortunately, I found the therapist I was paired with and I weren’t a great fit, and overall found the treatment to be more prescriptive than what I felt like I needed, so I stopped the course early. A large part of the reason I stuck with it for as long as I did was due to having been on a waiting list for a few months, bringing with it both a sense of sunk costs and also guilt that I had deprived someone else of being able to access this therapy, when they might have stood to gain from it far more.

While that particular course of therapy didn’t yield the value I’d hoped for, it did convince me that therapy would be something valuable for me to pursue, even though it’s something that I have tried many times with seemingly limited long-term results. Finding a new therapist is basically terrible, and much like dating (something I’ve been glad to leave behind in the past couple of years) - you meet new people over and over until you find one you click with, it’s expensive, and some of the people you might seem surprisingly awful. Actually, seeing a therapist for the first time is even worse than going on a first date, because in the former instance the only items on the agenda are a recap of the worst moments in your entire life, followed by an overview of everything that is currently making you miserable and afraid of the future (don’t let this dissuade you from seeking help, I promise it gets better after the first meeting). Feeling overwhelmed by this, and by the prospect of somehow trying to narrow down the literally 1000s of therapists in London to ones I might have some chemistry with, I asked for recommendations on Twitter. I received a DM with a glowing recommendation from someone who’s opinion I hold in high esteem, got in contact with the therapist they recommend, and voilà - I’ve now had over 10 sessions with them, and I think we have a productive working relationship. I feel like the combination of therapy and meditation have amplified the affects of both, as discussed in my post on meditation recently.

With that being said, private therapy is expensive, and I think this creates an interesting dynamic in which I am constantly evaluating the cost-effectiveness of the sessions (every month I review my last month’s spending on YNAB and wince whenever I see the amount I spent on therapy. On one hand, it seems like discontinuing therapy is my lowest-hanging fruit to save money, and on the other, it’s difficult to think of anything outside of my basic needs that would provide a higher return on investment). This helps guard against therapy being a purely self indulgent activity where I go and whine about my problems for an hour a week, and then feel that this is valuable because I got to flex my intellectual and introspective muscles and it is in fact not therapeutically valuable; it’s simply that I feel liked/respected/valued by the therapist (which I concede, could be therapeutically valuable in some contexts, but I don’t think is for me). In fact, I am trying to put my finger on exactly why I feel like therapy is productive, in the hope that I can cheaply distill the secret sauce myself and undercut the market. So far I’m having a hard time doing so - it could be that simply having a conversation for an hour a week where the only item up for discussion is my feelings is indeed useful (this would be ideal - seems easy to replicate reciprocally with my partner), it could be that the act of paying the money and going to his office is important as it allows me to take seriously this conversation and therefore the feelings and experiences it is about, or it could be that he is actually providing valuable insight into my psyche, in the form of subtle nudges, that I couldn’t reproduce out-of-distribution.

Despite not having yet figured out the answer to this question, I feel like progress on my self-esteem is tractable in a way in which I haven’t felt in years, maybe ever, and that is way more important. It’s also a blissful feeling. There is still a huge amount of work ahead, but I am starting to believe, and belief is a powerful thing.


I’m not going to set any grand goals for the next year - most of what I want to do is more of the same that I’ve done this year. I do have some loose running aims, mostly to try to run 3 races that are at least 100k, with at least one being 100 miles, but I don’t want to set that in stone, as these things are highly susceptible to Acts of God. Ideally I would also not detrain so much in the summer, and find a way to either be better prepared for extremely technical races, or choose to run less technical ones instead.

Outside of running, the word that springs to mind when I think of next year is stability. I want to continue to solidify the foundations of my own wellbeing, by reducing stress and finding greater meaning in my work, by deepening my relationships with my friends and partner, by continuing to nurture the sense of community I feel, and by allowing more love into my life, whether from myself or others. My relationship with food and body still has the greatest potential to destabilise this vision, but I intend to start the year by focusing on quality rather than quantity of food, and by continuing to prioritise improving said relationship.

2023 certainly held hardships for me, but also moments of joy, serenity, awe, splendour and love that I will treasure. I can only hope that 2024 will be more of the same.