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June 12, 2019

What Brave Like Gabe Means to Me

There’s a line in Harry Potter where Albus Dumbledore says, “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” When I was younger my aunt taught me about magic through books. Recently, we had dinner and I listened to her speak about her life before I was born and exactly how she ended up as a librarian and professional storyteller. Her journey started with hearing an inspirational narrative from a woman she respected and who she went on to work closely with in her career. I’ve always been thankful that I’ve had someone in my life teach me the value of stories worth sharing.

Today, the community I’ve been a part of most of my life is navigating the tremendous loss of a remarkable friend and person. There is a unified, tangible wave of heartbreak around the country. If you knew Gabe Grunewald, you simply understand that she was too much of a force to not feel like this, because in whatever capacity you knew her she impacted you. #BraveLikeGabe is a story worth sharing and I hope that it spreads with the same ferocity and resilience as the rare cancer that took her from us last night and the same rare human ferocity and resilience she fought it with. I think that we are all trying to find our voice to tell her story and just…contribute to a set of ideas worth spreading.

“Space creates time, but time cannot always create space,” Dr. Fergus Connolly writes in Game Changer: The Art of Sports Science. “The most important law in all sports, regardless of moment, context or micro moment, is the law of space and time. Often you hear people refer to an athlete who seems to have more time on the ball, or a player who creates time for others. In reality, what is being referred to here is the creation of space. Time and space are both created using the four macro principles of team sport. The law of space and time states that space can create time. This law is not reversible in sports — time does not necessarily create space.”

Gabe understood this law and I don’t think she limited it to sports. She very much understood the role of time in a person’s life. What I respect her for the most is the time she created to do the most with what she had.

She did this by creating space. Space in her life for other people, her husband, a career she had a passion for and activism for those suffering from incurable diseases. She proved that in the face of adversity you have a choice to be optimistic and make the most of your time.

We may all be sad for Gabe, but we just want to celebrate her and share her story so she’s not forgotten. We’re sad for us because we’ll miss her. We’re sad for her husband, Justin, who has shown that he is just as strong as her now and going forward. We want to provide him with support.

I think as runners, we empathize with her story because we share the common trait of having made a choice to pursue a passion of pushing our bodies to their absolute limits. We’re chasing after the best versions of ourselves. We resonate with Gabe because that’s how she lived all of her days and if you were her friend she didn’t settle for anything less than the best version of you.

For her last magic trick, she created important space by fighting to the bitter end and literally saying, “Not today.” That space created time. Time to celebrate her and tell her story. Time to say goodbye and make our peace so we can go on fighting. We needed that time because honestly, I don’t think anyone believed she wouldn’t beat it despite the odds. That’s just the kind of thing she makes you believe is possible.

Over the past few days, I’ve thought a lot about how she would want me to handle her passing as someone who served as a role model, mentor and helped pave the way for my career to be possible. I believe she would just want me to be brave like her and keep fighting to spread the light that she did.

Please consider making a donation to the Brave Like Gabe Foundation, where proceeds go toward rare cancer research centers including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

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