The Heart of the Matter - Page 2
Photo by Justin Bailie.
The World Traveler
Sitting on the couch in her home in Northwest Portland Amy Sproston stretches out her long legs and props her feet on the coffee table in front of her. Though she has a minor cold, she's opted to treat it with a cold microbrew and cough syrup rather than the herbal tea that sits in the cupboard by the stove. next to the couch is a bookcase filled with titles describing places like Morocco, Palestine, Afghanistan and the Philippines. Damp running shoes are piled by the front door, and a laptop bag sits on the kitchen table.
Sproston is a recent transplant to Oregon from the east coast. She came out west for the 2009 Waldo 100K, fell in love with trails and moved shortly afterward largely because of the natural beauty of the state. Now that she’s here she’s found more reasons to stay, including a great book club, regular opportunities for salsa dancing, good beer, strong coffee and a job she loves.
Sproston, 37, works on the financial side of the international nonprofit mercy corp, a group that works to stop suffering and poverty worldwide. For that job, she travels extensively, often making between three and four international trips each year.
“When you’re traveling that much, you begin to look at the world differently. As a Westerner, you learn to not take things for granted,” says Sproston. “As a woman, I’ve come to really appreciate just being able to run safely out in the open. In places like South Sudan, that is not always an option.”
On a recent work trip to Iraq, Sproston was discouraged from venturing outside of her accommodations after dark. It would not have been an issue except most of her hours available to train were after dark. The few times she did take to the roads she was berated by a constant stream of honking horns and uncomfortable stares.
“It was fairly evident that they hadn’t seen many women runners,” she says of the experience.
To get her miles in, Sproston ended up running loop after loop around the apartment complex where she was staying.
“In Iraq you don’t run through the streets and blend in, like you do in Portland,” she adds. “Things that are typically easily dealt with—like stopping to use the bathroom during a run—become challenging when all of the signs are in Kurdish.”