I love those NBC specials on Kona, its taken me a little while to figure out why but with a bit of reflection and particularly considering those on higher repeat cycles than others I reckon I’ve figured it out. Those Kona videos give me heroes (forgive me a little while this blog goes a little sideways).
“As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary”
- Ernest Hemmingway
Ernest was a bit busy getting married, getting drunk, watching bull fights and writing some of the great literature of the 20th century to elaborate on why heroes are “sort of necessary” but his words feel kind of right. So, this being 2016 I turned to the internet for some more ideas on why heroes might be good for us. Now "psychology today" is hardly a peer reviewed journal on the cutting edge and their article (here) is written in the sort of soft and cuddly language I cringe from but I agree with the gist of it.
In short (and in my words), this is why its good to have heroes.
1. Heroes elevate us.
One of my favourite philosophers Johnathon Haidt – I love his book the Happiness Hypothesis – writes that elevation is “elicited by acts of virtue or moral beauty; it causes warm, open feelings in the chest. ”When people experience elevation, they feel a mix of awe, reverence, and admiration for a morally beautiful act. “ Basically we feel good – and that’s something worth chasing.
2. Heroes help us deal with our stuff
Hero stories show us people in worse straits than us making it through. They can make us feel less alone, calm our fears, buoy our spirits, and nourish our hopes. All this gives (or at least enhances) our sense of meaning and purpose.
3. Heroes give us a community
The hero and their story forges a strong sense of social identity. If the hero is an effective one, they do something that exemplifies and affirm the community’s most cherished values. The validation of a shared worldview, told vividly in storytelling, cements social bonds.
4. Heroes show us how to transform our lives
Every hero story tells of a journey toward vast personal transformation. Heroes and their stories show us that only when we heroically risk change and growth in our own lives will we reach our full potential.
5. Heroes turn us into heroes ourselves
Good heroes use the power of transformation not only to change themselves for the better, but also to transform the world. That elevation we feel hearing their stories, which warms and uplifts us, also includes a desire to become a better person.
Again, as Jonathan Haidt says, elevation “motivates people to behave more virtuously themselves.” The elevation we feel upon witnessing a heroic act transforms us into believing we are capable of heroic acts ourselves.
Which brings me back to those Kona Videos.
Having watched pretty much all of them (many, many times – usually while sweating and hurting) I’ve got a new constellation of heroes and hero stories I can draw upon. Hands up all those that get a little teary with the stories of Jon Blaise (Blazeman) and his struggles with ALS or Team Hoyt with the dad towing his son behind him on the swim in raft or pushing him through the entire marathon.
Sometimes its not even the really big things but the little ones can be just as important. One of my favorite stories is Rebekah Keat giving Chrissie Wellington a spare CO2 cartridge despite that generosity almost certainly saving Chrissie and costing Bek a place.
Think about these athletes, or Marc Herremans returning to race after being paralysed or even the long running saga of Chris McCormack trying to win for so long and finally breaking through and we see all these people fulfilling the role of hero perfectly and giving me hero stories I can lean on when I need them.
That’s why Kona videos are one of my favourite things about triathlon.
(oh, and they have literally hundreds of cheesy quotes which as I said before, I absolutely love).