Dion Oxley, Founder of Quizzling

Dion Oxley, CEO of local startup Quizling recently took the challenge to complete a half marathon before her 40th birthday. After sticking to a gruelling plan, she realised the similarities between challenging yourself physically to complete a goal and running a startup.


Last weekend I finished the Melbourne Half Marathon; my half before 40! “A half before 40” was a sort of jingle I kept coming back to, but I wasn’t quite sure I was up for it – until I was. And on a 27-degree day over 21km it occurred to me that running a half marathon is very much like running a startup.

You need to have a plan

Plans change, but you need to have a plan for it to change. I diligently downloaded my 20 week training plan, and really put it into practice for 8 weeks. My plan ended up looking nothing like the thing on my fridge, but included advice from experienced people, when to eat, what to drink, what socks to wear. In writing a plan, you become aware of the details.

Get the time on the legs

“You need to get time on the legs”. This seemed like the sportiest thing I’d ever heard. But applied to running or startups it is the single best piece of advice I’ve had. Startups take time – and they don’t work when you’re not. I am not the fastest runner, but I can put in the time.

Find the right team

If you’re spending a lot of time on the legs, you need to be spending it with the right people! There are three amazing women I run with and I was so happy to have them with me in Melbourne. Not only do they hold me accountable when I want to (and sometimes do) stay in bed, but they push me further, encourage me up some hideous hills I would never have attempted on my own and are there for the coffee afterwards. Their experience, in running and in life, made saying “a half before 40!” sound like fun! It’s a very rare person who can run a startup alone, and frankly, I wouldn’t want to.

It’s a solo sport

Ultimately, it was me who had to cover the 21km. Having great friends running beside me, family cheering me on from home, and encouraging likes from Facebook; it made all the difference in the world – but I had to cover the distance alone. The missed coffee in the morning, the putrid gel at 19km, the decision to change shoes at the last minute – were all on me. As a CEO I take the advice of my team, from the board, from advisors and I make the decisions. It is hard, and it has its own rewards.

There is no look that pre-qualifies you

You don’t need to look like a runner to be a runner, you need to run! Just as there seem to be a few athletic stores that insist that active women don’t exist above a size 12. This applies to the business world, and there are still quite a few misconceptions out there to what a CEO looks like. Its antiquated rubbish and there are plenty of strong women leading successful enterprises #runlikeagirl.

It’s not as glamorous as the movies

Running turns out to be a blood sport. I had a fall in a training run and ripped my gloves and bloodied my knees. I got a blister that took up a good third of my foot. I have a toenail that is falling off. I also know the importance of a good pair of running undies. Startups will leave you battered and bruised and requiring seam-free undergarments also. Gird your loins. It’s not all gala events and awards!

Run your own Race

Going out too fast is a common mistake – you must go your own pace. It was a super-hot day and I was happy to let people pass me, and to pass others in return. I had a time in my mind, I had a plan and I couldn’t get upset by anyone else’s race. Due to an error somewhere along the way, I turned up to a run last year – in starting group A – elite runners! It was very clear that I couldn’t measure my performance against their race. I was so proud to finish Melbourne close to my goal time – rubbish to anyone who says you need to do a sub 90. Every startup needs to run their own race, in their own time.

There are only 9,996 people who get it

9,996 was the number of people who finished the 21km in Melbourne on the weekend. It’s a popular run, and the biggest event of the festival – but most people don’t know why you’d do it. Leaving a safe salaried job to run a startup still doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. But for those that do, who celebrate the portaloo, relish toe socks and who have views on pre-run coffee – the challenge has us looking for the next one. Gold coast in May?

To find out more about Quizling visit: quizlingapp.com

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