AWS re:Invent 2018 vs a marathon

This past week started in Las Vegas where I attended AWS:reInvent, Amazon’s developer conference. 53,000 developers, partners, and sponsors descended on The Sands Expo Center to learn of Amazon’s vision for the future of cloud computing. As I look back on a busy week of customer meetings and event participation, I realize with the exception of a couple of close connections with colleagues and customers, I felt alone in sea of people. —How is it that we can feel so disconnected when surrounded by so many people? 

As the show concluded, I grabbed the first flight to Sacramento to run CIM (The California International Marathon). My older brother has run this race for several years and it’s now become a tradition to run together. 

As we lined up at the start, I found myself yet again surrounded by people. The overwhelming collective experience of the start became an individual one as our focus shifted to breathing, pacing and maintaining composure. We were still in it together but each of us had prioritized individual goals. It felt incredibly enlivening to be around so many people.

Go time.

Comparing the two experiences, the binding factor of the road race was physical accomplishment. The conference in Nevada was a commercial event in the quintessential location for manufactured experiences with the biding factor being commercial/professional development. Both are of course important, the environment makes the difference. You have to be more intentional in a location like Las Vegas where everything is “turned up to eleven” to nurture meaningful connections.

It is up to each of us to make an effort to connect with those around us. If not, time will pass and we will easily miss opportunities to learn, connect and grow. The takeaway is these things are harder in a physical location where everything is a facade.

2017 Barkley Marathons results: running in the wrong direction

If you're unfamiliar with The Barkley Marathons, start here, then watch this. The summary from the IMDB page states: 

" In its first 25 years only 10 people have finished The Barkley Marathons. Based on a historic prison escape, this cult like race tempts people from around the world to test their limits of physical and mental endurance in this documentary that contemplates the value of pain."

This year, John Kelly was the lone finisher and became just the 15th of the race since it began in 1986. Yes, Top Gun, Papa Don't Preach, Miami Vice, that 1986.  His accomplishment is incredible, full stop.

And while his success should be enough, there is a newsworthy story about a man named Gary Robbins, who didn't finish. 

In a blog post, Robbins acknowledged he was disoriented by fog and made a wrong turn shaving 2 miles from the course resulting in his disqualification. There was some confusion at the end, it was reported that he missed the finish by a mere six seconds. 

Gary clarified what happened in his post: 

"The Barkley Marathons is not an orienteering style race. You do not get to select the route that best favors you between books. You need to navigate between books, off trail, but in a very specific direction of travel. My finish, even if it were 6 seconds faster would not have counted. I put Laz and the race in a precarious situation and in hindsight I'm glad I was six seconds over so that we didn't have to discuss the validity of my finish."

Regardless of the outcome, Gary's accomplishment on the course and integrity though a difficult situation are admirable. I wish him success in the future and feel inspired by him and the others participants of this race.