American middle-distance runner Gabriele Grunewald, a national champion and Olympic confident who publicly chronicled her battle with cancer on social media, died Tuesday. She was 32.
Grunewald’s husband, Justin, affirmed his wife’s death on Instagram late Tuesday night.
A NCAA all-American at Minnesota who won the U.S. indoor championship in the 3,000 meters in 2014, Grunewald turned into a source of motivation inside the running community as she continued to compete while fighting a metastatic form of cancer. She was first diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in her salivary gland in 2009, followed by thryoid cancer in 2010. A recurrence of the salivary gland cancer came in 2016.
After battling the disease secretly at first, Grunewald began posting about it on social media quite a long while back and developed a significant following. She also created a non-profit organization, Brave Like Gabe, to raise money for cancer research.
At the while, Grunewald kept running.
“Being brave, for me, means not giving up on the things that make me feel alive,” she wrote in a statement on Brave Like Gabe’s website.
A Minnesota native, Grunewald said her training had become irregular in recent years. But even recently, she had a stated goal of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“She was one tough son-of-a-gun,” former University of Minnesota cross-country coach Gary Wilson told The Star Tribune. “Gabe was a fighter from the get-go. She gave people something we all need: Hope. That’s her legacy.”