On June 2, 2019, Gabe Grunewald underwent a fairly regular procedure at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The ERCP procedure - one to insert stents into Gabe’s liver - carried with it some risk, as do most medical procedures. The next morning, Justin Grunewald, Gabe’s husband and also a MD, woke up next to his wife as a group of nurses rushed in to bring Gabe to the intensive care unit. Gabe’s lactate and pH levels had fluctuated out of the ranges compatible with life. That afternoon, Justin had asked for some time alone with Gabe to let her know that her time was running short. It was at this moment he ended up reading her a letter he had written a while back. Right as Justin was thinking that only a miracle could allow Gabe to overcome her condition, she took a deep breath and shouted “NOT TODAY”. He followed up with "Not Today, what?" Not completely sure what she meant, she repeated it again "Not Today". Gabe wasn't ready. Shortly after, Gabe’s levels had begun to stabilize and she and Justin spent the night in the ICU. Justin was still not sure if his Gabe would make it through the night, but Gabe woke him up the next morning eager to order breakfast. Gabe fought on for eight more days before unfortunately passing on June 11, 2019.
It is with great pride that we are teaming up with the Brave Like Gabe Foundation, which raises money for rare cancer research to bring to you the NOT TODAY bracelet. 100% of the profits from this bracelet will be donated to the Brave Like Gabe Foundation. We had the opportunity to speak with Justin Grunewald prior to the release to discuss what it was like to be by Gabe’s side during her fight with cancer, as well as to learn about Gabe’s passions and her life in running.
Gabe was Justin’s wife, his best friend, and often a training partner. The pair met while in undergrad at the University of Minnesota, where Gabe became an All-American 1500m runner. As Gabe became one of the best middle-distance athletes in the United States and the world, she had Justin to push her every step of the way. Justin said that they would run together often seven days a week. While Gabe was always a speed-oriented runner and would drag Justin around the track during 200m repeats, Justin excelled at longer distances and often had an edge on Gabe during tempo runs and long intervals. According to Justin, a fast workout of 200, 300, 400, 200 was a good equalizer for them.
Gabe was initially an 800m runner but moved up to the 1500m after Justin talked her into it. She quickly began to love the distance and excelled greatly. Gabe became the NCAA runner-up in the 1500m run during her senior year at Minnesota and carried that momentum into her professional career. At the Diamond League meet in London in 2011, Gabe had a breakout race in which she ran 4:06 for 1500m. Of all the races that Justin travelled to with Gabe, this one stands out the most to him as it was something of a springboard into a new elite level of competition for Gabe. Two years later in 2013, Gabe went on to run 4:01.48 for 1500m in Monaco, making her the 11th fastest American to ever run the distance. The event in Monaco takes place every year in July, and this year it was scheduled about one month after Gabe’s passing. The women’s mile (changed from the previously run 1500m) was named the Brave Like Gabe Mile and in the race Sifan Hassan of The Netherlands ran a new world record time of 4:12.33. Gabe may not have been there to run in the race, but her presence was absolutely felt and the race named for her became one of the most historic ever run.
Gabe produced many incredible performances on the track, but like any athlete, she faced her share of disappointing races. Later in 2013 after having run 4:01 for 1500m, Gabe competed in the Diamond League Final in Brussels, Belgium. Gabe was ready to go against a loaded field, but with one lap to go, a woman fell which led to a total of eight athletes piling up, Gabe included.
Gabe had been planning to stay in Europe to travel for enjoyment following the race, but as a result of her frustration, she got on a red-eye flight back to Minnesota. She and Justin drove to Duluth to run in the Minnesota Mile two days after the race in Brussels. Halfway through the race, Gabe had a ten second lead on second place and went on to win in a time of 4:21, crushing the course record in the process. This is the type of positivity Gabe carried with her in everything she did, not allowing adversity to bring her down. Whether it was a disappointing race or a cancer diagnosis, Gabe approached everything with a smile and a plan to overcome.
Running is an inherently selfish sport. It requires people to take time away from their friends, families and jobs in order to make themselves better athletes. Some people want to run fast times or win races, and others, like Justin, run for the mental benefits. Gabe took running, one of her greatest passions in life, and made it into something bigger than herself. She used her status as an elite athlete to spread positivity to people who need motivation and hope in their lives, as well as to raise money to give back to research on rare cancers like the kind she had. It is this message and spirit that we hope to help carry on - that no matter what you are facing you can look adversity in the eye and say “NOT TODAY”. In Justin’s words, “There will always be bad days, and there will be good days. Whether you are running or anything else, hope goes a long way.” This is the mentality that helped Gabe live such a rich and fulfilling life. Her fire is burning brighter than ever and it will never be put out.
Pre-sales for Gabe’s “NOT TODAY” bracelet will continue through Friday, August 30 at 10 PM EST. Since launching last Friday, it has proved to be, by far, our best selling product ever, and we are proud to be supporting the Brave Like Gabe Foundation through its sales. We hope all of the characteristics that make up Gabe: bravery, hope, relentless, and so much more will be instilled in you through her powerful message.
R.I.P. Gabriele Grunewald
BY: Michael Weidenbruch