MINNEAPOLIS — Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald, once the country’s best runner, who inspired so many as she battled cancer and kept running, has died at the age of 32.
Gabriele Grunewald’s husband posted on Instagram Tuesday, “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. (Gabriel) 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.
“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.”
The 32-year-old distance runner was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma — a rare form of cancer in the saliva glands — in 2009, while running for the University of Minnesota’s track and cross country teams.
Following surgery and radiation therapy, she went on to finish second in the 1,500 meter at the 2010 NCAA championships.
Over the past few days, Gabriele’s health quickly deteriorated, as her husband kept the public notified on his Instagram, telling friends and fans to send her one last message and she would see them.
Garrett Heath, a Winona Senior High School and Stanford alum, was a Brooks Running teammate of Gabriele.
He wrote on Justin’s post: “You inspire me every day. Your courage, competitive spirit and contagious smile are enough to make anyone believe in the impossible. Regardless of what you’ve been dealt, you’ve always made the best of every day and put others before yourself. You’re the best of us and the impact that you’ve had on everyone around (and many who you’ve never met) will live on and never be forgotten. I’ll always cherish your friendship, laugh and our great times together both on the track and over a post race beer and burger. Your bravery will continue to inspire me every day. Love you always. #BraveLikeGabe.”
After college, Gabriele ran professionally through 2017 despite more surgeries and treatments for cancer in her thyroid and liver. She was the 2014 U.S. indoor champion in the 3,000 and inspired many through social media, as she kept fans apprised of her battle with cancer and her ability to keep putting on miles.
Read more about her running life and ongoing battle here.