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Perham community showing support for Gabe Grunewald

Gabe Grunewald aka Gabriele Grunewald (right), talks with Kate Grace after running in a women's 1,500m heat during the USA Championships at Hornet Stadium. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Courageous, gritty, tenacious and positive are just some of the words to describe Perham’s Gabriele (Gabe) Grunewald. The professional runner continues her battle with adenoid cystic carcinoma and now the community of Perham is giving back to the runner that has given so much to her community.

Perham Cross Country coach Jeff Morris and the cross country teams will be hosting a #BraveLikeGabe fundraising run at Arvig Park on Saturday, Aug. 19 with the proceeds going to Grunewald’s Flip Cause page. The run begins at 9 a.m. and will follow the annual perham Inter-squad Time Trial, which begins at 8 a.m. The event will be a 1-mile run, which won’t be timed.

“It’s great. I have had a lot of support this year and it means a lot to me to still have that connection to Perham,” Grunewald said. “Coach Morris has been checking in on me all year and has always been a big part of my running. It’s awesome to see the Perham community and the running community want to support me in that way. It’s pretty awesome.”

Grunewald is currently being treated in a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. It requires Grunewald to travel every two weeks to New York City through the month of October. She arrived back in Minneapolis on Aug. 10 from her second immunotherapy infusion. She said everything is going well so far, but won’t know how she is responding to the treatment until she gets another scan.

One of the constants for Grunewald during her cancer battle has been staying active with running. The day she had her second immunotherapy treatment, she tweeted out that she had slogged through an 8-mile run.

“I have been doing everything I can to keep running a part of my life and a part of my day during treatment,” Grunewald said. “Obviously, it was a challenge to run fast when I was on chemotherapy in June and I’m happy that I did it. I took a little break after the US Championships. Now, I have started up again. I’m kind of out of shape, but my body feels pretty good. I plan to keep running as much as my body allows through this treatment. I don’t know what the future holds but I’m still hoping to get back to racing in the future.”

Grunewald won’t be attending the event on Saturday as she will be at a wedding of a best friend in Washington. She hopes to make a trip back soon in September and has remained connected to the cross country team by speaking to them in the past at camps and practices.

“It’s awesome to stay connected to my local community. I’m not in Perham as much as I used to be, but I hope the athletes and runners can follow my story,” Grunewald said. “I hope they are proud of me and hope that the kids can learn from my perseverance and carry that through into their own training and their own lives.”

Grunewald has been in the public eye, sharing her story since she was first diagnosed when she was at the University of Minnesota. She was an NCAA runner-up in the 1,500 meters and was a multiple Olympic Trials qualifier, finishing as high as fourth in the trials. She recently competed in her eighth USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, while going through chemotherapy. She recently announced that her cancer has not responded to chemotherapy. However, through it all, she has maintained a positive attitude and spirit, supporting and encouraging many during her battle.

“I realize my situation is definitely not the type of story that I would want to have in my life. I don’t think anyone wishes to be a cancer patient or cancer survivor,” Grunewald said. “For me, it’s empowering to me to take control of the narrative and I’m going to make it as positive of a story and positive message. It’s really needed out there in the world to take on our circumstances with the best attitude. It helps me get through my day-to-day life, because it is challenging. Every day, there is something for me to be grateful for. Running is one of those things, my family and friends -- I have so many things in my life that cause me to keep that positive attitude. I think it makes a difference in my treatment, too.”

Grunewald’s story was recently shared in an article in Sports Illustrated, as well as many other national media outlets.

“It’s pretty crazy. I think I have touched more lives than I ever expected to with my story,” Grunewald said. “It shows that a positive person and a positive attitude when you are facing something like cancer is really needed and it’s something that people want to see. I know I’m not the only person going through a situation like this. It’s our responsibility to encourage each other. We all have our tough days and for me, it’s important that I show I can be brave and keep living my life as best as I can even though I have been interrupted by cancer multiple times. I just think it’s my duty to do my best with it.”

Morris is asking people to wear shirts with the saying #BraveLikeGabe on the front or the back of the shirt. All donations are accepted, but they are requesting a donation of $10.

“Runners are a supportive bunch of people and runners are people who want to make a difference. It’s a great way for them to want to help me out and I definitely appreciate it,” Grunewald said. “They are definitely going above and beyond what I would expect. It’s pretty cool.”

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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