PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Jeff Sved is a man on a mission. A missionary, in fact, working in the prisons of Bolivia. He ministers to societal outcasts in one of the poorest countries in South America.
“Being able to reach across those boundaries that we kind of artificially put up, to remind ourselves and them that they are still human,” he said.
These days he trains high in the Andes Mountains. The Butler native has another mission in mind: returning home this weekend to run in the Dicks Sporting Goods City of Pittsburgh Marathon.
“Being able to run across the bridge, run by the stadium, Pitts’s campus and finish down by The Point,” he said.
A Catholic layman, Sved has been in Bolivia for the past three years with the Franciscan Mission Service, it’s tough work and the squalid conditions can be overwhelming. That’s why he found running.
“I started running as a stress release actually. The more time I spent in prison, the more time I had to balance outside of prison in kind of infinite spaces,” Sved said.
Mt. Washington is a molehill compared to the Andes, and Sved has been training at 9,000 feet, six times the elevation of Pittsburgh.
Logging training runs in the thin air and high heat are a remarkable physical feat. But for Sved, running has a spiritual side as well, he thinks of it as a form of prayer.
“Running for me is very intentional focus on each steps, as I focus on those breaths, every thing I pass by and a greater centering on self and the presence of God,” he explained.
And now Jeff’s calling has led him back home at least for the weekend. A homecoming and a celebration before he returns to his work in Bolivia.