2023 in review

Posted on: 16 January 2024

Another year, another year in review post! In many ways, this year has been a good one. Fit and healthy, a loving family, some personal goals hit. What more could you want?

I’ve continued my journalling habit, the data of which forms the content for a lot of this site. Blogging has been consistent throughout the year, I’ve levelled up my running again, but overall I’d have to say it’s been a fairly routine and somewhat uneventful year. It very much feels like my wife and I are in the "growing children" phase of our life - consistent & demanding, with the occassional treat.

Personal life

Somewhat characteristically, no big changes again this year. My kids ended the year aged 4 and 2. The back end of the year brought about the topic of schools for our eldest; very much the next chapter of our lives it feels. Learning how to ride his first bike, speech coming along, and a joint baptism were some of the highlights of the year for our children.

Despite us both working, a combined 8 days a week, it’s been another tighter year financially than I would’ve liked. The ongoing money sink that is home ownership continues to spring surprises, and childcare costs continue to dominate. In the distance, 2025 offers some reprieve, but I don’t like to get too ahead of myself. I’m thankful every day that we are comfortable and not in any trouble financially.

It was a fairly busy year around the house; major expenses included a roof resealing in January, ensuite maintenance in February, front yard clean in July & new kitchen worktops in December.

Trips were even more scarce than the previous year, but included Bedfordshire Center Parcs in May & a beach day in West Wittering in September.

I attended 8 football matches, all at Stamford Bridge, equalling 2022's total.


In 2023 at Arena, we acquired Patch Plants and much of the year has been working on integrating their company with ours. This has posed some fun challenges and has been a good opportunity to meet new people with different ways of working. We also launched a subtle rebranding project to reposition ourselves in the market.

We took on a junior dev in the second quarter of the year. This was motivated by an interest I had in doing some mentoring to develop my skills in this area (and hopefully impart some wisdom). We hired Claire in May and for the remainder of 2023, I spent a lot of time 1-on-1 introducing Claire to our systems and teaching some core concepts of programming. This has been a whole new challenge for me, having not had a junior under my supervision since 2016.

Personally, I’ve lead some key projects this year including an algorithm to turn Patch Plant’s labour-intensive, manual packaging picking process into a largely automated one. I’ve also introduced several optimisations to improve our systems over peak periods of traffic.

I still work solely from home, but had a brief visit to the warehouse to catch up with the team in the Spring, prior to Mother's Day.


I tagged “social” in my journal 161 times in 2023, 44% of the year. Me being social for 44% of the year comes as a surprise to me, especially considering I work from home. It’s also a big increase compared to last year’s total of 125.

The year’s total social events broke down as:

  • 31 events in homes (not just ours)
  • 23 sport meet-ups (running mostly, not including regular Monday night football)
  • 18 at pubs, cafes or restaurants
  • 13 organised events (football matches, races)
  • 8 outdoors
  • 4 kids play
  • 1 wedding

If you’re interested in finding out how I keep track of social events in my life, I blogged about it recently.


Bar graph showing run, walk and other distance in km in 2023

2023 was a big year for my fitness. I had planned to scale back the running, after over 1,500km ran in 2022. As it happened, I went in the opposite direction, running a total of 2,224km in 2023. The increase in volume was to the detriment of bouldering, cycling and swimming; all 3 of which saw little to no activity over the year.

One day in February I spontaneously took up the offer of joining another casual football group playing on Thursday nights. It wasn't the smartest decision; I love playing football but with my running schedule, I knew once a week was already plenty for me to avoid injury. Whilst I’ve been by no means regular, I have kept up the odd attendance where there’s been availability this year. And it’s been a fun, friendly social game that offers something a bit different to my regular Monday game.

In my regular Monday game, I played 43 times in 2023, once more than in 2022.

I set a somewhat arbitrary goal at the beginning of the year to walk 10,000 steps a day every day in 2023. I hit this target in all but 10 days, and all those days were sick days spent mostly in bed. Having this goal, coupled with my increased running volume, meant I ended up averaging over 15,000 steps a day for the year.

My first race of the year was the Mid-Sussex Marathon weekend - 3 races in 3 towns across 3 days, totalling 26.2 miles. I wasn’t ready for a full Marathon yet, so this seemed like a good compromise and an exciting challenge. I ended up almost missing it though, as I got a stomach bug the Wednesday before the first race on Saturday. Somehow, I managed to perk up enough to turn up on the start line in East Grinstead on 29th April, to race one of the muddiest courses I will probably ever run.

Heavy rainfall had turned the first 10-mile race into a bit of a bog. I also managed to fall onto a barbed wire fence in the first half, cutting my finger and painting my hand a muddy crimson colour for the rest of the race. I got through it, finishing in 17th place in a time of 1:21:13. The following day was a drier, relatively flatter course in Haywards Heath. A more competitive race, I finished over 8 minutes quicker (1:12:26) but further back in 62nd place.

The final race on Bank Holiday Monday was in my town, Burgess Hill. Heavy legs and an undulating cross country course saw me run a 46:32, a long way shy of my 10k PB, in 20th position. I was thrilled to finish the 3-race weekend with some very challenging runs under my belt and an overall position of 14/179 runners.

Me at the finish line with a finisher's medal after completing the East Grinstead 10 mile race Me at the finish line with a finisher's medal after completing the Haywards Heath 10 mile race Me at the finish line with a finisher's medal after completing the Burgess Hill 10k race
Left-to-right: East Grinstead 10-mile, Haywards Heath 10-mile, Burgess Hill 10k races

A month later, I ran Worthing 10k in an attempt to beat my PB set last year in Brighton 10k. I ran a respectable 41:59, a 50 second personal best!

A few weeks after that, I ran a 5k PB (in a Parkrun), finally toppling my long term goal of a sub-20 minute 5k. I ran Hove Promenade Parkrun in 19:45. 5 weeks later I beat it again at Preston Park, running 19:43 in my 61st Parkrun.

It was around the end of June I started a half marathon training plan with Garmin. For the first time ever, this had me consistently running 4 times a week. This took my average weekly volume up from around 35km to 50km. Over the summer this remained consistent, peaking at Barns Green Half Marathon, a race I had set my sights on for a big PB.

I ran a great race, crossing the line in 1:32:00 on the dot. I shattered my previous PB set in February 2022 in Brighton by over 10 minutes. This was a clear indicator that my fitness was at an all time high. The Saturday following the race, I ran a huge course personal best at Clair Parkrun, a few seconds shy of breaking 20 minutes (on a tough course with over 100m of elevation!)

As we moved into an unseasonably warm Autumn, I increased my mileage further, averaging 50-60km weeks. I targeted Brighton 10k in November as an opportunity to really prove my fitness and aim for the coveted sub-40 minute 10k. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. COVID stuck me down the week of the race and I was in absolutely no shape whatsoever to run it.

That, and an injury I picked up towards the end of October, ended up setting the tone for the rest of the year. My heart rate and general fitness took a big hit as I tried to get back to the schedule I’d grown used to. Eventually, in mid December I regretfully wrote off the rest of the year, hoping for some recovery and rehabilitation to be fresh for 2024.

The other big fitness milestone this year was starting my 5x5 workout journey. My desire to bulk up a bit and strengthen my body to improve my running and football influenced this goal. It took until October to probably get started, but save for a few hiccups along the way, I’ve really enjoyed the regular strength sessions in my makeshift garage gym in the last quarter of the year. I spoke in detail about my experience starting the 5x5 in another blog post.


Sadly I wasn’t able to remain injury-free in 2023. An increase in load following the introduction of the 5x5 workout into my running routine lead to a hamstring tendinopathy injury in October playing a Thursday night football match. Not diagnosing this properly until 2024 meant I wasn’t able to shake it. This lead to a decrease in enjoyment of my running towards the end of the year, not to mention performance. I also suffered some lower back pain after the first few weeks of lifting weights.

I donated blood at the end of October which also suitably rattled my running for a few weeks. I hadn’t given blood in a number of years and didn’t think much of signing up to do it again. Unfortunately it wiped out my short-term fitness, leaving me completely breathless and several minutes off my typical 5k pace. I took some iron supplements in an attempt to bolster my levels which seemed to work quite well, but it’s hard to know how effective they were really. I will think twice before giving blood again, or at least plan it better around my running goals for the year.

Having largely gotten over giving blood, I got hit with COVID in November, which left me bedridden for 3 days. I got the full package; lethargy, migraines, brain fog, a bad cough. The cough took months to finally subside, and I’m still suffering the residual effects on my heart rate in my running. After a nose dive couple of weeks for my fitness, and my injury, I metaphorically hobbled across the line in 2023.

Having become such a big part of my life, not being able to run to my full potential took a hit on my mental health. Having seen a fairly continual upward trend through 2023, I found the setback hard to take in the backend of the year.

In total, I was properly ill for 10 days in 2023, 1 better than 2022. This included 2 sickness bugs and the aforementioned bout of COVID.


Bar graph showing total podcast listen time per week in 2023

Podcast listens took another big leap from the previous year, from 364 episodes in 2022 to 588 in 2023. I had to increase the Y axis of the graph on my podcasts page midway through the year! In week 43 of the year I listened to over 17 hours of podcasts (at 1.3x speed, I should point out).

A big increase in walking (28%) and running (42%) volume paved the way for a lot of podcast indulgence. My well-travelled Aeropex headphones bit the dust in November after some rugged usage throughout the year. I replaced them like-for-like with the new Shokz OpenRun.

My top 5 shows by total listen time

  1. ➖ The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett (3 days, 20 hours) - holding firm at number one again. The calibre of guests just keeps getting better as their subscriber count grows. Subject matter that captivates.
  2. ➖ Deep Dive with Ali Abdaal (2 days, 15 hours) - second again. Not as engaging a podcaster as Steven, but some solid “deep dives” into some fascinating topics. Not as insta-click as this podcast once was for me, but usually a worthwhile listen.
  3. ⬆️ Deep Questions with Cal Newport (2 days, 13 hours) - moving up, and just behind Ali. These can be a little dry, and can turn into white noise during my longer runs or more philosophical walks. But I love the subject matter and always learn something from Cal.
  4. 🆕 The Bootstrapped Founder (2 days, 4 hours) - a new entry in the top 5. Arvid is consistent as ever and the quality is always on point with his episodes. A great mix of tech subjects and more human topics around mental health.
  5. 🆕 I will teach you to be rich (1 day, 13 hours) - another new entry. Ramit is a bit marmite, he’s very exuberant in his delivery and you’ll either vibe with that or you’ll be turned off by it. This scratches my personal finance and budgeting itch but also offers some key learnings about relationships and life.

New podcasts discovered this year:

  1. Remote Ruby - A light-hearted Ruby podcast that gets me my fill of “what’s hot” in Ruby land. Can get a bit overly conversational, but a good mix of guests keep it entertaining.
  2. Streets Ahead - I’m passionate about active travel and reducing car usage in populated areas, and this podcast has been a brilliant listen in keeping me abreast of the goings on in this sphere. Well-informed, personable hosts keep this oft-contentious topic easily digestable.
  3. Rework - by 32 signals (The Basecamp people). A wealth of business and technological knowledge in a really concise and well produced package. Short and sweet, with just the right amount of shoutyness.
  4. Runner’s World - It’s taken me a while to add a running-related podcast to my rotation. This isn’t hugely exciting, but is engaging and informative in its topics.
  5. Hackers Incorporated - Similar to Rework. 2 techy business owners chatting shop about their tech companies and their lessons learned along the way. I’m a big fan of Adam Wathan’s journey so this resonates. Frustratingly inconsistent posting pattern though.


Bar graph showing TV watch data for shows and live football in 2023

Slightly more TV watched than last year (85 hours to 2022’s 80), with a trend towards the first quarter of the year. Live football had a sizeable drop from 96 hours in 2022 to 64 hours in 2023 (-33%). Owed in some part to Chelsea’s catastrophic performance in the 2023 calendar year. Early exits in the cups in 22/23 and a drop in their matches selected for TV, coupled with my dwindling interest in watching them towards the end, meant I only watched 36 total live football matches in 2023 (down from 53 in 2022).

TV show highlights

  • Happy Valley (seasons 1-3) - This had my wife and I gripped. Harrowing, but endearingly British. The characters were brilliantly acted and the storylines had us on the edge of our seats each season.
  • The Bear (seasons 1-2) - A showstopper of a show. Thoroughly enjoyed these two seasons and loved the progression of the restaurant and the characters within it. Funny, raw, but incredible scripts and acting.
  • Reacher (seasons 1-2) - A guilty pleasure of sorts. Low-grade entertainment, but entertaining nonetheless. I haven’t read the books, but this provided some heart-racing evening watching for us both.

Films & books

I watched 28 films in 2023, up from 20 in 2022. At least 2 a month is a reasonable cadence. I’d still like to watch more. Differing in our tastes has meant my wife and I watch fewer films together these days. I gave an average rating of 3.68, down from 3.8 in 2022.

Film highlights

  • Fair Play, 2023
  • Oppenheimer, 2023
  • How to Blow Up a Pipeline, 2022
  • The Whale, 2022

I read 11 books in 2023, 1 more than 2022. I started the year in earnest, with a few relatively quick reads to get me going. I faltered as the year went on, losing my reading habit and finding finishing books becoming a chore again. A feeling I hate.

I need to get better at abandoning books I’m not enjoying. I could also do a better job of vetting books before I start them, perhaps utilising a service like Blinkist or Short Form. I also must read more fiction. I always enjoy reading fiction, and I know this, but a part of me struggles to see the benefit beyond simple entertainment. But simple entertainment is perfectly valid, and can prove a wonderful escape.

This year I started tagging the book I read that day in my journal entries, to better track how often I read.


I was really pleased with my consistency with blogging in 2023. It wasn’t really a target, but more something that just came naturally to me throughout the year. I posted 24 times in 2023. A real mixture of subjects and lengths of post.

I also copied over the majority of my posts from my 2018-20 blog on samking.me. I’ve let this domain expire now as traffic was minimal. Samdking.co.uk already feels more complete as my primary place on the web, featuring all my writing and stats.

Side projects

Probably my biggest source of disappointment this year. After a hugely productive 2022 getting this website off the ground and continually tinkering, progress has largely been stagnant in 2023.

In January I managed to upgrade my server’s PHP version on 5aside.samueldking.co.uk. Not as straight forward as I’d envisaged!

In February I added a small amount of functionality to my books page. This is still in need of some visual elements, but I added the time taken to read the book which I considered quite a useful metric for comparison. I also added cycling, football & swim (lol) data to my fitness page, alongside walking and running distance.

I dabbled with Descript and screencasting briefly in April. I did wonder if this is something I might get into, but I sorta lost interest when I realised the amount of work that goes into a single edited video!

In the middle of the year I had an idea for a new side project: a small app for tracking attendance of private groups; something that I could make use of for Monday night football. Sadly I lost motivation and it never materialised beyond a Trello board.

In July I very briefly explored the possibility of building Connect IQ apps using Monkey C. This was very much a flash in the pan!

In October I again sketched out and wrote a small amount of code for an app idea similar to the group attendance one early in the year. A “player of the match” app which allows those who have played in a match to vote on who they thought was the best player. This idea was born out of a slightly clunky implementation my Thursday football group put together using Whatsapp polls.

I began coding this in a new Rails app and made some solid progress on this in November. Sadly I again lost motivation for this later in the new year. I do still think this is a good idea and may pick it up again in 2024.


I had a big plan in 2023 to shake-up my sleep, after a particularly bad end to 2022. I blogged in detail about how this went at the end of the year. In summary: tracking it has been useful and has helped curb some bad habits, but it has felt at times like I’m swimming against the current of how I’m wired. There’s certainly room to improve further in 2024.

What goals did I not meet in 2023?

Original post: https://samdking.co.uk/blog/2023-goals/.

Halfway through the year I blogged my progress on my goals. I’ve referenced a lot of these above, but there’s a few I haven’t:

Start a side business

Sadly a goal that I’ve not made any progress on. I’ve had lots of sharp jolts of inspiration for ideas, but haven’t put anything into action this year. I do however have a contact who could possibly provide some insight in this field. I’ll be pursuing this in 2024.

I’m torn between Cal Newport’s advice to avoid the “Follow your passion” mantra when it comes to money-making. Whilst on the surface I love the idea of an on-the-side lifestyle business that’s directly related to an interest of mine, in the book So good they can't ignore you, Cal talks about the virtues of why “skills trump passion in the quest for work you love”. With that in mind, I’ve spent a lot the year pondering how I can utilise the skills I have now to provide an extra source of income. Without burning out, of course.

This site

I had plans to develop my books, weekly feed & fitness pages, and add more opinions to my data. But alas, none of it came to fruition in 2023. There's lots of exciting opportunities for more data visualisations and I'm keen to start the motor running on this again in 2024.

Goals for 2024

As with last year’s review post, and in the interest of relative brevity, this subject should be its own post.