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In the final weeks of her life, Gabriele Grunewald’s husband took her place as the open, vulnerable, and brave one on social media, sharing emotional updates about the beloved track star with the world. In the months following her death, Justin Grunewald has continued to let us in, sharing beautiful tributes as well as the raw struggle of trying to cope with such a heart-wrenching loss. His goal seems clear: Live every day bravely, just as his wife of almost six years had.
“Gabriele, missing you hasn’t lessened,” Justin wrote in a touching Instagram post Friday. “Thanks for lending me your bestie [Ladia Albertson-Junkans]. We plan on starting the next 3 months with something wild that I think you would enjoy (minus the hills).”
Gabriele Grunewald, a national champion in the indoor 3,000 meters and a top middle-distance track star, died on June 11, 2019, at age 32. She had been diagnosed 10 years earlier with a rare cancer called adenoid cystic carcinoma, which has no cure.
“One of the most important things you gave me was running,” Justin Grunewald continued. “Our training was never ideal. I kept you in Minnesota for long winters. I’d tell you I’d be home by 5pm and roll in at 7pm because a patient got sick before I left the hospital, so I couldn’t leave on time. You’d always wait for me. We’d squeak out the sunset. The only purpose I had running was to help you succeed. I loved it. I’d give anything for another sunset run or interval with you. I know you are always there, but it’s just not the same.”
On Sunday, September 1, Justin will support Albertson-Junkans as she goes for the women’s fastest known time (FKT) around Mount Hood on the Timberline Trail. The trail is 40 miles with 10k ft of elevation gain and loss. The current FKT is 7:15:17, set by Lynn Harmon in 1982. Albertson-Junkans ran the Western States Endurance Run shortly after Gabe’s death, saying later that her friend continued to be with her through the toughest moments of her first 100-mile run.
“We are gonna do it with you, with you for every second, and also for you,” Justin wrote. “If we fail it doesn’t really matter. I hope we struggle, and I’m sure we will, but we won’t give up. And it will be beautiful.”
Justin Grunewald has pledged a total of $800 to Brave Like Gabe Foundation if Albertson-Junkans gets the FKT. “If she doesn’t get the FKT, I’ll donate $10 per mile,” Justin wrote. “So it’s a win-win for cancer research either way.”
Read more about Gabriele Grunewald’s inspiring life and legacy in the September/October issue of Women’s Running. To make a donation to the Brave Like Gabe Foundation or find out more about its mission, visit bravelikegabe.org.