PORTLAND, Ore — Dozens of runners ran gathered at Duniway Park in Southwest Portland Friday night to remember All-American track star Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald. The 32-year-old died on Tuesday after a 10-year battle with cancer.
Grunewald was from Minnesota but she struck a chord with people in Portland and around the world, not just for athletic talent, but for her bravery.
“She fought a valiant fight for 10 years against cancer, and we're here to celebrate and honor a true hero,” said four-time Olympic runner Shalane Flanagan. Flanagan remembered racing against Grunewald and said she was touched by her sheer joy for life.
“Her message was to be brave no matter what the circumstances that you're handed in life, to pursue what you love and your passion,” Flanagan said.
In 2009, Grunewald was diagnosed with a rare salivary gland cancer. She also fought thyroid cancer and lost part of her liver. Through it all, she kept running and almost made the 2012 Olympic team. Many who ran on Friday said they have looked to Grunewald for inspiration.
“It was really important for me to keep going, and she sort of paved that path for me,” said runner Cindy Reed.
“Through it all, she just kept competing and kept going at it and it just made all my problems seem so minuscule,” Hana Herndon said.
Though Grunewald is gone now, the long shadow she cast lives on. Her Brave Like Gabe Foundation supports rare cancer research and inspires cancer survivors through physical activity.
Flanagan hopes others will honor her legacy every day.
“We can choose to be brave and fearless and every time we make a choice to be the best version of ourselves, I think we'll be thinking of Gabe,” Flanagan said.
To learn more about the Brave Like Gabe Foundation, visit bravelikegabe.org.