Gabriella Mathisen - Overcoming Adversity
Gabriella has had many reasons to give up, she could have backed down from challenges, instead, she has chosen the road less travelled, and it started with the need to give herself a sense of control and choice over her life. Growing up in a dysfunctional home of violence and drug addiction, Gabriella became addicted to drugs and was forced to turn to prostitution. She later had to have her arm amputated. She learned early on that she had to take care of herself. Always a fighter, as a child she would ride her bike for miles, fantasizing about everything she wanted to do.
Running has helped Gabriella when her life was chaotic with untreated trauma by giving her a sense of control. “I got all my emotions out and processed them. Eventually, I was able to run long distances and create positive memories”
So how did Gabriella change her life from such a difficult background? “In life, I always felt bigger on the inside. I looked at life as a gift. I needed help.” She took herself to a treatment centre in the mountains, which also used dog sledding as therapy. “Running saved my life; it gave me faith in myself. Then I made the choice to move to the mountains. Nature and running give my life a purpose. It can be tough to live like that but adventure and running to travel the world always lifts me up.”
Gabrielle explained that her motivation comes from setting personal goals to accomplish, and “I have lost so much in life that I have not chosen for myself. Running is something I choose myself and that is why it is so motivating.” She lost her cousin from cancer and because of this, her aunt took her own life. “I promised my aunt that I would quit heroin. I had a choice said my aunt. I chose to live to keep my promise. They were important people in my life. It's 10 years since they died. The eighth year I quit heroin. But in my heart they are a great motivation.”
The thirty-three-year-old from Norway has always considered herself an extreme person, and she now lives in the mountains. “I love open landscapes, the rawness of nature. I use nature all year round. The Namib Race fascinated me and blew my mind. I realized I just had to experience it. I mean, life is only once. Live it to the fullest. Experience as much as you can. Running 250 kilometers through a desert is just an incredible opportunity.”
In Namibia, Gabrielle is most looking forward to the beautiful landscape, meeting her fellow racers from around the world, and the fact that this is the biggest challenge she has given herself. “I know this is going to be a life-changing experience for me. I want to show myself and others that anything is possible. This will be part of my journey.”
Gabriella has not let adversity get in the way at any point in her life. In 2016 she ran her first marathon and in 2017 ranked 4th place in Norway`s championship 21km. Gabriella is writing a book about her journey and hopes to use her story to inspire and help others facing adversity to live the life they dream of.
Gabrielle sums up perfectly her "why" for running: “When I run, I feel free from fights inside me. I feel happy, and I become proud of myself.”
Gabrielle is running the Namib Race to support the charity Pro Senteret in Oslo which assists women impacted by prostitution.