A Metaphor for a Start-Up – The Nine Edges Endurance Challenge

Last month I undertook the Nine Edges Endurance Challenge, which meant I spent a great deal of time doing nothing but hiking and gazing at the incredible landscape. With the mesmeric act of continually putting one foot in front of the other, it also gave me time to think, and I started comparing my hilltop adventure to life in a ‘Start-Up’. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the Nine Edges Endurance Challenge is undertaken to raise money for the Edale Mountain Trust.

Nine Edges Endurance Challenge Poster

The route begins near Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire, England, and is a traverse from Fairholmes to Baslow, which is approximately twenty-one miles, depending on the route you decide on. There are no signposts so you need to be able to navigate successfully, and you have the choice of running, hiking or climbing your way across the nine grit stone edges.  I decided to hike it. Naturally, I could have run it, you understand, but that would have meant not being able to take in the stunning vistas around me. I did some calculations and envisaged that the journey would take me around seven hours, which is two hours under the nine-hour limit.

9 Edges Landscape

And so the journey begins…

First up on -Derwent Edge.  A gentle stroll from the start, past the end of the reservoir where the movie Dambusters was filmed, onto a gentle rise and a clear path – So far so good…I was confident that this was going to be a straightforward day.  How wrong could I be… A companion informed me that I was heading in the wrong direction.  I’d not read the map correctly and I had to make an about-turn and change my course.

 Comparison with a Start-Up – No. 1…

When you set off on the journey, you need to listen to others as they may have a different view of the direction you should be heading.  If there is a disagreement, review the plan.  We reviewed the plan and I was wrong, so we set off up toward the top of Derwent Edge.

Within ten minutes, I was questioning the plan.  The path was very, very steep. ..and I mean steep… the kind of slope that skiers would only tackle with a parachute.  The slope that appeared to go on forever was not at all what I was expecting.  I felt the need to re-check my course.  Considering someone had corrected my erroneous direction only a little while earlier, my concerns were still met with empathy plus a well-needed rest.  We consulted the map once more, and I was wrong once again.

Comparison with a Start-Up – No. 2…

Having a team that listens to your concerns is vital for what lies ahead.  The challenge will certainly be greater than you think and will involve more effort than you ever imagined.  Sanity-checks are fine, but once you have agreed on the path, pursue it until you have met your first goal.

The first goal on my trek was to get my card punched at the very first checkpoint.  Upon reaching the top of Derwent Edge, I was expecting to be met by someone rushing to congratulate me. Not so. The checkpoint was nowhere in sight, in fact, it was half way to the next Edge in the ‘Endurance’, much further than I had anticipated.

Nine Edges Landscape

Comparison with a Start-Up – No. 3…

Be prepared to re-assess your objectives and your goals.  If you are expecting reward for your efforts and it doesn’t happen straight away, evaluate where you are and keep going, as the rewards sometimes take longer than expected.

Next, it was off to Edge number two – Stanage. There was only one path from the checkpoint, so luckily no need to check the map at this point.  It was easy to get going and soon we were overtaking some fellow walkers.  I felt great.  We were beating the competition…but my celebratory mood was stopped in its tracks by the sound of a stampede… It was ‘the runners’.  They’d set off an hour after the last of the walkers.  I’d forgotten about them to be honest.  Suddenly, there was a stream of people flying past without so much as a ‘Gentleman’s excuse me’.

Comparison with a Start-Up – No. 4…

Make sure that you know who your competition are and ensure that you work out how to overcome them.  In addition, always expect the unexpected.  You never know when someone with an alternative approach might leave you feeling a little left behind – although to be honest the runners, these super athletes, were in a different class and a different competition altogether!

Onwards and upwards…We now had to tackle Burbage North & Burbage South.  They were some distance apart but the path between them was not as tricky as before. Sensing the opportunity to make up some time, the pace was cranked up.

Comparison with a Start Up – No. 5…

If you have the opportunity to do more than you planned, don’t be afraid to up the tempo, so long as you are heading towards your goal.

The remaining Edges – Froggat, Curbar, Gardoms and Birchens, were surely attainable within the time-frame?  As it transpired the route that I was expecting to tackle, in reality was not to be… Having discussed the route with some helpful folks near Burbage South, they kindly advised me that the checkpoints were, in fact Haywood Car Park, Curbar Gap, Clod Hall Cross-roads and Robin Hood, and not on the actual Edges themselves.  Oh dear, another slip-up on my part.

Comparison with a Start-Up – No. 6…

It’s all right to make mistakes, and goals may well have to be altered to accommodate how the journey can change along the way.  Learn from mistakes and never forget that you can always ask people outside your immediate team for reference.  That is, after all, what a Network is all about.

Pressing on towards the next checkpoint, things started to get tough.  The endurance challenge was beginning to take its toll.  The weather had been kind, but the cloud-cover was increasing and the breeze was certainly picking up.  The drop in temperature meant decisions needed to be made about changing our attire. We struggled on through the inclement weather until, by chance we came across a place to take stock, rest and attend to our painful blisters.  The Grouse pub was a welcome sight and we even managed to down a cheeky pint before heading on our way feeling refreshed.

Comparison with a Start-Up – No. 7…

Don’t be afraid to take some time-out and recharge your batteries.  Sometimes, when you are consumed by your focus, you neglect to do the simple little things that help to keep your mind, body and soul healthy.  Rest is very important when you have been putting in a great deal of effort.

9 Edges landscape

The remaining Edges were paid into the ‘Achievement Bank’ until there was just one Edge left – Birchens.  I watched some of the climbers on the final ascent, noting that the obstacles they faced were entirely different to mine.  At the end of my journey, I also had time to reflect… Having achieved my goal, I found myself at the final checkpoint, the Robin Hood Pub, sitting amongst three hundred participants – all of us like-minded people, but each on their own journey, with their own story to tell, having learnt valuable lessons and faced individual challenges along the way.

Of course, the challenge doesn’t end there – the next one is right where you seek it, and in a Start-Up, you have to keep looking!

Peter McManus – Director of Sales – Improved Apps