6IX Feature: On What Matters

6IX Feature: On What Matters | Jeb Abbi

Through his father’s sacrifice, a runner learns to appreciate those around him.

I live in New York City now, and I often find myself looking back on those mornings in high school during the peak of summer cross country training. Those memories keep me grounded. They remind me of the vastness and the stillness of the world God has created. These are memories that continue to inform me about what really matters in life.

Suburban streets in Cleveland, Ohio feel different at 6 A.M.—the summer heat hasn’t quite woken up yet, and there is a quietness in the air that is in deep conversation with the soft echoes of running flats hitting the pavement and the shallow breathing of a morning run. Growing up, I was never one to describe myself as an athlete. It was rather ironic that, of all my friends, I was one of the few to compete in a sport at the collegiate level. Let alone at a Division I school.

Today, though, my priorities have changed. I realize that I owe the gift of running—as a craft, place of solace, and stillness—to my dad Luke. A track and field athlete in college himself, my dad didn’t just share his lifelong love of running, athleticism, and wellness with me and my brother—he imparted something far more valuable. Each personal best, every tempo run, the blood, the sweat, and the tears were merely symptoms of the now lasting conditions of hard work and passion.

6IX Feature: On What Matters | Jeb Abbi
6IX Feature: On What Matters | Jeb Abbi

My dad’s patient, steadfast sacrifice in life has helped me to see that the commitment we make towards taking care of ourselves is really a commitment towards taking care of others. I know this now because, for every workout and track meet I made room for in my schedule, he simultaneously built them into his own. His morning and evening runs revolved around my schedule so that he could be present to not only drive me across the Midwest but also work hard to provide for our family. There were even times we would run together or he would meet me miles out with water.

Sacrificing is an important thing to me. I’m more aware of what that looks like today but recognize I still have so much to learn. Living in a loud and challenging city, I try my best to leave margin for the quietness and stillness that a workout or a run brings, but I know that I only face this challenge because of my dad’s own sacrifice.

There is something absolutely unique about the culture of New York City, but I’m still hypersensitive to the idea that people from all places and walks of life are plagued by the pressure to be consumed by themselves. It’s as if we’ve forgotten that we’re all sharing the same air and space to live and grow.

I find this ironic because there’s nothing really sustainable about ourselves—we’re designed to live and die. No matter how hard and fast we train our bodies to work and perform or to take and gain, there is still a strangely beautiful breakdown that takes place each and every passing moment.

6IX Feature: On What Matters | Jeb Abbi
6IX Feature: On What Matters | Jeb Abbi

Though I’m grateful to have learned the importance of maintaining great health and taking good care of my body at a young age, I also realize the need to build on my strength to run and endure the joys and pains of living. Everything I’ve experienced individually has impacted my ability to take care of others in return.

A while ago, I heard a quote, which went something along the lines of this: “Look at us, always running around. Always rushed. Always late. I guess that’s why they called it the human race. But sometimes, it slows down just enough for all the pieces to fall into place, and fate works; it’s magic. And you’re connected.” I hope that, with age, I’ll get stronger, faster, and, more importantly, more passionate about loving those around me and sacrificing for them. I’ll pass along my track singlets and the love I have for running, but I pray that there is something more important people will receive from my life and the grit I’ve shown.

Written by Evan Baum
Photo by Jed Abbi

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