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GABRIELE GRUNEWALD 1986-2019

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HAVING BORNE witness for a 2017 SI profile to Gabriele Grunewald's ebullient determination, I came to imagine the next story I might write about her. It would be set in Eugene, Ore., in the summer of 2020, when Grunewald, her cancer in remission, ran the 1,500 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials. I imagined the interview afterward, watching her contort her face in that way she liked to do, joking about her performance and then turning serious to encourage and inspire others. I couldn't wait to write that story. Sadly now, I never will.

On June 11, Grunewald, known to the running community as Gabe, died of complications due to adenoid cystic carcinoma. She was 32, far too young and far too strong to die. Far too beloved. Yet cruelly, far too sick to live another day.

In the two years since I wrote about Gabe and her husband, Justin, she lived another story altogether. Already a loving wife, daughter and sister and an accomplished runner, she became a teacher, mentor and activist who simply would not give up in the face of an unbeatable opponent. At the beginning, #BraveLikeGabe was a social media hashtag to recognize her courage. It evolved into the name of the foundation she started with Justin to raise awareness of and money to battle rare cancers. The foundation will continue in her absence, and in her memory.

Grunewald's story was a reminder that rare-cancer research too needs more funding. Known for her kick as a runner, Gabe fought to her last breath to effect change.