Distance Runner Gabriele ‘Gabe’ Grunewald Dies at 32 After Battle With Cancer

By Tiffany Meier

Professional long-distance runner Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald has passed away. She was 32.

Grunewald’s husband announced on the evening of June 11 that Grunewald had lost her decade-long battle with cancer.

“At 7:52 I said ‘I can’t wait until I get to see you again’ to my hero, my best friend, my inspiration, my wife. @gigrunewald,” Justin Grunewald wrote in an Instagram post.

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At 7:52 I said “I can’t wait until I get to see you again” to my hero, my best friend, my inspiration, my wife. @gigrunewald I always felt like the Robin to your Batman and I know I will never be able to fill this gaping hole in my heart or fill the shoes you have left behind. Your family loves you dearly as do your friends. When @chipgaines made the final push in his #chipinchallenge I could feel your happiness building and could also see that this made you ready to head up to heaven. Chip thanks for helping her to go up so peacefully with no suffering. To everyone else from all ends of the earth, Gabriele heard your messages and was so deeply moved. She wants you to stay brave and keep all the hope in the world. Thanks for helping keep her brave in her time of need ???????????? #keeprunningonhope #bravelikegabe ???? @pixelcrave ???? @kohjiro_kinno

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“I always felt like the Robin to your Batman and I know I will never be able to fill this gaping hole in my heart or fill the shoes you have left behind,” he continued.

He also thanked their friend and HGTV star Chip Gaines, who matched any donations made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Gabe’s foundation, Brave Like Gabe, earlier that day.

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More than 10 years ago, my friend @gigrunewald was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer. I understand that Gabe is not a patient at @StJude, but right now, she is fighting for her life. Cancer is ugly and it is mean and it doesn’t fight fair. This has gotten extremely personal.. so here’s what I’m going to do about it: I want us to hit that $500K mark by midnight tonight. So I will be personally matching all #ChipInChallenge donations made between now and midnight. ON TOP OF THAT, I’ll also be matching that amount in the form of a donation to the #BraveLikeGabe Foundation, in Gabe’s honor. That is 3x the power of your generosity in the fight against cancer.. and all YOU need to do is donate whatever you can to the #ChipInChallenge (link in bio) between now and midnight CT. I’ll take care of the rest. Together, we’re going to fight for those who are fighting for just one more day. This is for those precious kids at St. Jude.. we are pulling for you! And to my beautiful friend Gabe.. we love you and we are here for you every step of the way.

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In 2009, Gabriele Grunewald, a former track and cross-country athlete for the University of Minnesota, was diagnosed with a rare salivary gland cancer called adenoid cystic carcinoma, according to her website.

Despite four bouts with cancer, Grunewald continued running amid surgeries and treatments. In 2012 she almost qualified for the U.S. Olympic team, placing fourth in the USA Olympic Trials, just narrowly missing the cut-off, according to her website. In 2014, she was the United States indoor champion in the 3,000-meter.

Gabriele Grunewald competes in the Women's 1500m Run
Gabriele Grunewald competes at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2017. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Over the last couple of days, Grunewald’s husband kept followers updated about his wife’s condition.

On Sunday, June 9, he posted on Instagram that her condition had worsened after being rushed to the ICU because of septic shock.

“It breaks my heart to say but overnight Gabriele’s status worsened with worsening liver function causing confusion. Wanting to do her no harm we have made the difficult decision to move her to comfort cares this afternoon,” he wrote on Instagram.

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*** update read whole post *** It breaks my heart to say but overnight Gabriele’s status worsened with worsening liver function causing confusion. Wanting to do her no harm we have made the difficult decision to move her to comfort cares this afternoon. I wanted to let you all know while she is still alive so you can send her one last message here or on her wall or on her phone before she heads up to heaven. I wrote this to her a couple years ago below and wanted to share what she means to me. Dear Gabriele, First, thank you. Thank you so much for showing me what it’s like to be and feel alive. It’s easy to pass through life day to day and punch a time card wishing away the hours. Currently although I don’t always show it, I cherish every second. Whether we are out running, binging on a new Netflix series, or just lying in bed being lazy. Nothing beats the feeling I get when I see your smiling face. I know life is scary and I know we have won the lottery of uncertainty, and it’s not fair, but I still choose our life of uncertainly and at times fear, over any alternative option I could think of. I have so much fun with you and have learned more from having you as my best friend and wife than I learned in the rest of my life combined. I know you have been given the heaviest of tasks in life. The task of being brave despite feeling enormous amounts of fear. The task of smiling when your throat wells up with pain and eyes want to fill with tears, but I don’t think you were chosen by random chance, and again I know that’s not fair but you are so amazing at being you and that’s why I feel bravelikegabe is so special. Because there isn’t a word in the dictionary for what you do or who you are. Brave flails in comparison to what you are to me and to so many people out there facing the simplest and silliest of struggles in day to day life. At the end of the day people won’t remember the PRs run or the teams qualified for but they will remember that hard period in their life where they were losing hope but they found inspiration in a young lady who refuses to give up. I love you ❤️ #bravelikegabe #runningonhope

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The next day, he shared that she was resting at home, from the comfort of the couch. He added that she was “resting peacefully and breathing easy surrounded by her best friends and family.”

In Tuesday’s post, her husband thanked everyone for their kind messages.

“To everyone else from all ends of the earth, Gabriele heard your messages and was so deeply moved. She wants you to stay brave and keep all the hope in the world. Thanks for helping keep her brave in her time of need,” he concluded his post.

“Gabe, your light will forever guide us,” Grunewald’s longtime sponsor, Brooks Running, wrote in a post on Instagram following the news of her passing.

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In 2010, we had the honor of signing one of the most vibrant young talents on the track: a senior from the University of Minnesota named Gabriele (“Anderson”) Grunewald. For almost a decade, we watched Gabe compete at the highest levels around the world, winning a U.S. title and crushing 1500m and 3000m races. In 2014, she took home the gold in the 3000m at the U.S. Indoor Track & Field Championships; her smile crossing the finish line is what we’ll remember most from that race. Off the track, Gabe was fighting a rare and aggressive form of cancer: adenoid cystic carcinoma. She would compete during her remission periods, never missing a beat, with her husband and training partner @justingrunewald1 by her side. Through running and life, Gabe inspired all of us with her tenacity and ever-positive attitude. The entire Brooks family is heartbroken, and our condolences go out to her family, friends and everyone she touched with her story. Gabe, your light will forever guide us. In everything we do, we’ll always strive to be #BraveLikeGabe. Gabe founded @bravelikegabe, a foundation raising funds for rare cancer research. If you would like to donate to or learn more about the foundation, visit: bravelikegabe.org.

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