Marathon runner Gabriele 'Gabe' Grunewald dies at age 32 after 10-year battle with cancer
Justin Grunewald, her husband, confirmed the news on Tuesday, June 11, evening in an emotional post on Instagram with pictures featuring the couple running side-by-side
Professional distance runner Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald, a marathon runner who gained thousands of followers on social media by sharing her story, has died after a 10-year-long battle with cancer. Justin Grunewald, her husband, confirmed the news on Tuesday, June 11, evening in an emotional post on Instagram. The post featured the 32-year-old with her husband in two photos of them running side-by-side.
The heartbreaking note read: "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."
Continuing on with his message, Justin thanked the couples' friend, HGTV star Chip Gaines, after he vowed to match any of the donations that were made to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and Gabe's own foundation, Brave Like Gabe, earlier that day. Chip and Gabe first met in 2018 after the marathon runner helped train him for his first marathon. Justin wrote: "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."
He added: "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."
MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) previously reported that Justin had asked his social media followers to send "one last message" to his wife before she "heads up to heaven". On Sunday, June 9, Justin revealed that his professional runner wife had been moved to comfort care after her condition began to worsen.
The painful decision came just two days after Gabe was readmitted to the ICU because she was experiencing septic shock. "It breaks my heart to say but overnight Gabriele’s status worsened with worsening liver function causing confusion," Justin began. "Wanting to do her no harm we have made the difficult decision to move her to comfort cares this afternoon,” he sadly announced on Instagram. "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," he added.
The 32-year-old former track and cross-country athlete for the University of Minnesota was first diagnosed with a rare salivary gland cancer called adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2009. And just a year later, the Perham native further learned that she also had thyroid cancer. Ever since her initial diagnosis, Gabe has continued to run amid her surgeries and treatments.
While watching Gabe fight a few years back, Justin said he wrote her a letter to describe what she meant to him. That note, along with a heartbreaking photo of the couple holding hands in the hospital, was also shared to his Instagram on Sunday, June 9. "Dear Gabriele," he began. "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 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… 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 Brave Like Gabe is so special," he wrote.
"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," he concluded.