Tribute planned at nationals for late runner Gabe Grunewald | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World Sports

Tribute planned at nationals for late runner Gabe Grunewald

Associated Press
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AP
Two years ago, Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald ran the 1,500 meters at U.S. championships in between rounds of cancer treatment. Grunewald lost her fight with cancer last month. A tribute is planned this week at nationals to honor her. “I know,” her husband, Justin, said, “she is always close.”

DES MOINES, Iowa — Justin Grunewald carries a lock of her hair with him as a remembrance. He has countless photos of her on his phone, along with rich stories from so many.

He feels closest to his late wife, Gabriele — “Gabe” to everyone — at random moments: on a mountain. Watching a sunset. Hearing a song. During a long run.

“I know she’s always close,” Justin wrote in an email. “It keeps me going.”

Two years ago, Gabe ran the 1,500 meters at U.S. championships in between rounds of cancer treatment. On June 11, Gabe lost her battle with cancer at her home in Minneapolis — an inspiring fight that connected an entire running community. She was 32.

A tribute to her is planned this week at nationals.

“It’s not hard to find her everywhere,” said Justin, who is hoping to make it to Des Moines for the event.

Gabe was a popular figure — for her competitiveness, courage and positive attitude even in the midst of her illness. That’s why shortly after her death, world steeplechase champion Emma Coburn wrote “Brave Like Gabe” on her bib number before a race. That’s why in Minnesota there was a “Brave Like Gabe” run June 25, her birthday, with a proclamation marking the day as “Gabe Day.” That’s why there were so many messages posted on social media.

“Gabe was a fountain of joy, friendship, hope, laughter, and inspiration,” decorated distance runner Shalane Flanagan said on Instagram. “The harsh reality she faced did not dim her spirit, but seemed to ignite her love of life.”

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We lost one of the best people in our, or any, sport last night, with the passing of Gabe Grunewald. Throughout her 10 year battle with cancer, Gabe was a fountain of joy, friendship, hope, laughter, and inspiration. The harsh reality she faced did not dim her spirit, but seemed to ignite her love of life. All of us here at BTC were inspired by Gabe and those who met her feel privileged to have done so. On Friday, Portland’s many running clubs will be gathering at 6:30pm at Duniway Track. We’ll run 5k in memorial of Gabe and do our best to honor the values she exemplified: the community and joy of running. If you’re in the area, come out and celebrate a true hero. We encourage all those who might be able to donate to the #BraveLikeGabe Foundation to support rare cancer research.

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Gabe was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare form of cancer in the saliva glands, in 2009 while running for the University of Minnesota. Following surgery and radiation therapy, she went on to finish second in the 1,500 meters at the 2010 NCAA championships.

She kept on running through three more bouts with the disease, building a career as a professional athlete and U.S. champion while enduring surgeries, radiation treatments, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Never one to let anything slow her down, she postponed another round of treatment for cancer that had spread to her liver to compete at the 2017 U.S. championships.

Just to feel like a competitor one final time.

She didn’t advance out of the first round of the 1,500 that day. It didn’t matter. The real story was her smile .

“I want her legacy to be a legacy of someone who persevered and continues to persevere,” said Justin, whose wife was the U.S. indoor 3,000 champion in 2014. “She is the bravest person I’ve ever met, and I think she made the majority of the people she touched more brave, including me.”

Justin said his wife’s main objective after her diagnosis was to make sure people with cancer had even better treatment options. Her foundation, Brave Like Gabe, was started to raise awareness and benefit research into rare forms of cancer. On her website, she encouraged others who were fighting cancer or adversity to share their stories under the hashtag MyBraveStory.

“I heard all the stories of people she wrote back or reached out to lift them up when they needed it,” said Justin, who met Gabe while at Minnesota. “She connected a lot of people that don’t care about track to track and field.”

Justin has posted heartfelt updates and photos on his Instagram account:

• On June 11 a picture of the couple on a trail with the caption: “As the seconds between Gabriele’s breaths start to lengthen I’m holding her hands so tight and am so scared for the trail ahead, but I know she will always be by my and everyone’s side helping us to be brave and remain hopeful on our journey when times get hard.”

• Later on June 11, a photo running into a bright sun : “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.”

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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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• On July 13, an image of them running on the streets : “Last night I prayed I could hold (Gabe’s) hand. I woke up in the morning holding her hand and was able to give her a kiss. Although it was a dream, it was so welcome and comforting.”

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“Don’t Swallow the Cap” – @thenational Everything I love is on the table Everything I love is out to sea I'm not alone I'll never be Into the bone I'll never grieve Can’t say I’ll never grieve but following @thenational to London after seeing a world record in the #bravelikegabe mile @diamondleaguemonaco may make it easier. The National especially make it easier. Every time I hear an old song, I hear a new lyric. Last night I prayed I could hold @gigrunewald’s hand. I woke up in the morning holding her hand and was able to give her a kiss. Although it was a dream, it was so welcome and comforting. The feel of her soft cold hand in mine. The memory of years of falling asleep or waking up like this. I honestly think she could have been there for that moment. I’m not alone, I’ll never be. @aarondessner I see that @bravelikegabe button💙💙💙 📸 @kohjiro_kinno #runningonhope

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Justin traveled to Europe to think — about her, about everything. He went to London to watch their favorite band, “The National,” and ran a mountain race in Austria.

“The more I think of her and remember her, she was perfect,” Justin said. “She was selfless. She cared about everyone, and she really wants everyone to face whatever they have to face with bravery and hope — no matter the odds.”

Categories: Sports | US-World
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