From drug addict to running enthusiast - Being physically active saves lives!

By: Stine Næss-Hartmann

An eternal hunt for syringes and a life of constant intoxication. This is how Gunn Monica Leier lived 5 years ago. Now she has traded the hunt for heroin for her daily dose of endorphins. And this autumn she will be running 10 for Grete for the first time.


-Assa, who would have thought that I would pay money to work myself to death at a race?!

Not me, anyway!" Gunn Monica says in an eastern dialect through the telephone receiver, but we still detect a hint of a "northerner". 

-I can if I want to. I moved to Oslo in 2002! 

Then her hometown of Fauske became too small for her. As an escape from reality, Gunn Monica started drinking alcohol at an early age. The need for stronger drugs quickly emerged, and at the age of 18-19 she became addicted to amphetamines. The hunt for ever greater drug experiences triggered her to move to the capital, and after 2 years as an addict on the streets of Oslo, Gunn-Monica did her first shot of heroin. The next 14 years consisted of addiction and a life in hospices, in and out of prison and countless admissions to various detox clinics. Gunn-Monica had no interest in getting clean. There was daily drama, a never-ending hunt for money and a subsequent hunt for fresh blood vessels. Everything revolved around drugs. Heroin became her great love as well as her worst enemy. 


A life without drugs

In 2016, she got her first apartment, a municipal housing in Galgeberg. But after three changes of address in one year due to situations related to substance abuse, she was forced to sign an application for substance abuse treatment. The following year she was admitted to Behandlingstunet at Fetsund, an interdisciplinary specialised treatment institution for drug addicts. The focus was on farming and equine-assisted therapy, and everything was designed to reduce her addiction. But the following summer, the 44-year-old cracked when she went on leave. And that was when everything turned around. Through treatment, Gunn-Monica had got a taste of a life without substance abuse. A life where hiking, physical activity and skydiving were the only forms of intoxication that existed. This was the life she wanted to live. She called back to the treatment centre and begged on her knees for one last chance to get her life back on track. After much pleading, she finally got a new place at the Treatment Centre. On Monday 27 November 2017, she was admitted and just under a month later, on 13 December, she took her very last tablet of Subutex, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. 

-I can't believe I've been clean since that day! It's unbelievable! 

Gunn Monica in May 2017. Here she has only just started treatment. Photo: Private
Gunn Monica in May 2017. Here she has just started treatment. Photo: Private


Found the joy of running

Physical activity was absent for many years when Gunn Monica was addicted to drugs, but shortly after she started working as a volunteer in addiction services, she was offered the opportunity to work out at a nearby gym. A project that turned out to be life-saving. 

-"What a great feeling it was to run on a treadmill," says Gunn-Monica, who quickly found the joy of running through group training sessions at Barry's Bootcamp. This combines running and strength training. 

-Twice a week we had the opportunity to train for free at Barry's, and I loved it! I've always admired people who run early in the morning, and thought I would never do that! What the hell! But then I found the joy of running by running on the mill! 

Sign up for this year's BMW Oslo Marathon here!

Her journey towards better physical and mental health had begun, and now she wanted to take it even further. At the Treatment Centre, she had become acquainted with a couple who talked about running away and how much it had helped them out of their addiction. 

-Also, I had been following Oslo Marathon on Instagram for quite some time, and when I saw one day that you were going to have a 3 km running group, I decided to show up. I simply wanted to challenge myself!  

But before that, her mind was going 110. 

-I'm not good enough, I can't do it... 

But Gunn-Monica realised that those thoughts had to go. She couldn't let them take over. Not now that she was so well into her running! 

-Then I started thinking about all the other situations I've been in that have been a thousand times worse! 

And who turned up our running group, full of running enthusiasm? 

-"I mean, it was such a great feeling of accomplishment when I managed to run 3 km continuously! I couldn't believe it. 

So great was the feeling of accomplishment that Gunn Monica signed up for 10 for Grete right after she completed our 3 for All last autumn. And physical activity has since been life-saving for the former drug addict. 

Gunn-Monica got good help from our ambassador Thea Stenersen to complete our 3 km run.
Gunn-Monica got good help from our ambassador Thea Stenersen to complete our 3 km run.

-Being physically active saves lives! 

-"Now that I'm on disability and working as a volunteer, I need something to keep me busy. And running has really helped me get off the couch! 

But motivation doesn't always come in dribs and drabs.

When Gunn Monica read about our Christmas Challenge before Christmas, the thought process started once again. I don't have the right equipment, I haven't run for ages...

She promptly signed up and our active calendar saved an otherwise heavy December month. This was what she needed to get through a dark season with little exercise motivation. She was able to walk/run her daily walks with her dog, and experienced a daily sense of accomplishment in making it through the hatches. On 5 December, the calendar clock showed 6 km, but Gunn-Monica was on a roll. She had more to give! That same evening, she uploaded a photo from her session, as well as a text :

-I'm still ecstatic and living in the clouds after tomorrow's 10 km. Today's mile was 6 km and I thought I would walk, but I managed to jog 10.14 km. My very, very first mile I feel so many emotions!

I was so hysterically happy that I could barely make it home, haha. Being physically active really saves lives! 

Gunn-Monica became an avid participant of our Christmas Challenge, and our active calendar got her through an otherwise dark December.
Gunn-Monica became an avid participant of our Christmas Challenge, and our active calendar got her through an otherwise dark December.


And several of her trips also marked something much bigger. 

-When I walked past Sofienberg Park early one morning, I saw two homeless people sleeping outside. And I felt so much for them. That was me a couple of years ago! I can't count how many stairwells I've slept in! And look at me now. I can't believe I've come out of a life of addiction and I'm taking part in an active advent calendar! Being active really does save lives. 

Gunn Monica participated in our 3 km last year, and this year she is going for 10 for Grete!
Gunn Monica participated in our 3 km last year, and this year she is going for 10 for Grete!


Sign up for this year's BMW Oslo Marathon 2023 here!



Age: 45

Residence: Bærum

Distance during the BMW Oslo Marathon 2020:
I run half, and of course aim to have the widest smile all the way.

Previous participation in the Oslo Marathon:
«10 for Grete» 2013, Half Marathon 2014 and 2015, 2017 and 2018 and marathon in 2019.

Three words that describe me:
Outgoing, Smiling, Energetic

Instagram: @muddylicious