She was an inspiration in the running community, as well as a friend to Chip Gaines and the best thing that ever happened to Justin Grunewald. Appropriately, then, it was the latter who announced the death of Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald on Instagram on Tuesday. "I will never be able to fill this gaping hole in my heart or fill the shoes you have left behind," Grunewald wrote of his 32-year-old wife. A professional distance runner who trained Gaines for his first marathon last year, Gabe died Tuesday following a decade-long battle with cancer. First diagnosed in 2009 with an incurable carcinoma of the salivary gland, she later learned she also had thyroid cancer, reports People. But that didn’t stop her. In 2012, Gabe just missed the cut for the US Olympic team with an impressive show in the 1500-meter race, per FloTrack.
A former student athlete in track and cross-country, the Minnesota native became the 2014 US indoor champion in the 3,000-meter, according to her website. She also launched a foundation, Brave Like Gabe, with the mission to "support rare cancer research and empower all cancer survivors through physical activity." In a touching tribute at Sports Illustrated, Tim Layden notes "Gabe's bottomless courage and optimism came in the face of odds that she fully understood." Days before her death, Justin—who shared a heartbreaking image of Gabe resting at home on a couch, a tube in her nose and loved ones gathered around—told Layden that the couple had come "to a peace with everything." He added, "We believe there is a place beyond this world. And if Gabriele doesn't get in, none of us are getting in." (Read more running stories.)