Sadness as much loved inspirational distance runner dies age 32

AMERICAN distance runner Gabriele Grunewald has died at the age of 32 following a 10-year battle with cancer.

The track star has been hailed as an inspiration by her husband Justin, while British athlete Jo Pavey offered her condolences.

In an emotional message, Justin said on Instagram: “At 7:52 I said ‘I can’t wait until I get to see you again’ to my hero, my best friend, my inspiration, my wife.

“I always felt like the Robin to your Batman and I know I will never be able to fill this gaping hole in my heart or fill the shoes you have left behind. Your family loves you dearly as do your friends.

“To everyone else from all ends of the earth, Gabriele heard your messages and was so deeply moved.

“She wants you to stay brave and keep all the hope in the world. Thanks for helping keep her brave in her time of need.”

Grunewald won the US national title in 2014 in the 3,000m indoor event, while she also represented America in the 2014 World Indoor Championships – finishing in ninth place.

The US Olympic Committee paid tribute to Grunewald, as they said: “Thank you for teaching us what it means to be brave and courageous. Your story and memory will inspire the Team USA family for a lifetime.”

Pavey – a World, European and Commonwealth medallist – tweeted: “The running community has lost someone very special. A truly inspiring and courageous person. Thinking of Gabe’s family and friends.”

Grunewald was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2009 – an extremely rare form of cancer that often affects the salivary glands of the head and neck.

Due to tumours, Grunewald had her salivary gland removed, before having he thyroid removed two years later in 2011.

She then had to have half of her liver removed in August 2016 due to a cancerous tumour.

Grunewald believed she was cancer free after the operation, but within two years scans showed she needed further treatment.

Justin took to social media on Sunday to announce his wife had been admitted to end-of-life care, with a number of sporting greats paying tribute to the popular track athlete.

Paul Radcliffe tweeted: “The bravery, heart and smile of Gabriele Grunewald will always shine brightly and inspire so many. Thinking of you and of Justin Grunewald and all those whose lives were enriched by your courage and love.”

Olympic medallist Deena Kastor said: “Dear Gabriele Grunewald, Wishing you peace and the wings you so deserve. Justin Grunewald, Thousands of people are grateful for your own courage and are sending you love… feel it overflowing in your big, big heart.”

Grunewald’s story is truly one of inspiration.

After having radiotherapy treatment during her second fight against cancer in 2011, she competed in the US 1500m trials for the London 2012 Games, where she finished in fourth spot – missing out on an Olympic spot by one position.