In an industry like this one, rooting and taking sides is actively discouraged.
Gabe Grunewald was a major exception.
Virtually everyone who crossed paths with Grunewald was touched in some way by her grace, optimism and perseverance in the face of a rare cancer diagnosis in 2009. And any obstacle she faced along the way — whether as an elite distance runner or a human being battling an awful disease — made you pull for her.
Those sentiments have been flowing along with tears in recent days, with news of Grunewald’s grave health and eventually her death Tuesday night at age 32.
Here is a sampling of those messages (photo above by the Star Tribune’s Aaron Lavinsky in 2018):
*Fellow elite distance runner Shalane Flanagan posted a heartfelt tribute on Instagram, calling Grunewald “a fountain of joy, friendship, hope, laughter, and inspiration.”
*Former Olympic distance runner Nick Symmonds did the same, saying he was thinking of Grunewald as he went for his run Wednesday morning.
*The popular cross country running feed Cross Country Probs called her, “One of the most inspiring and brave athletes to ever compete in this sport.”
*Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who doubles as a member of the elite running community having run a marathon in 2:16:44, wrote this:
*HGTV star Chip Gaines, who was trained by Grunewald for his first marathon in 2018, started a huge fundraiser in her honor.
Multiple outlets also wrote compelling obituaries capturing the life of Grunewald.
The Star Tribune’s Rachel Blount, who has written extensively about Grunewald’s life, did a wonderful job capturing her spirit.
I personally followed Grunewald’s story mostly through social media over the years, and our paths would cross when she would chime in to comment on Twitter about Gophers, Vikings or Twins-related topics I wrote about.
The rate of her posts on Twitter and Instagram was frequent enough that I noticed recently that she hadn’t really checked in for about a month. I sent her a private message of encouragement and well-wishes — something I had done in the past, always getting a thoughtful response — but not long after that her husband, Justin, began providing news of her increasing health struggles.
If I could pass along one more message, it would be this: Gabe, you taught us all a lot about life — and you continued teaching us in death. You packed the impact of 1,000 years into 32, which is all anyone can aspire to in a lifetime.