Gabriele Grunewald ran the last two laps alone, the rest of the field pulling away from her.
Applause grew, however, and she managed a wave to the Sacramento crowd before crossing the finish line at the USATF Outdoor Championships (Summer Champions Series) 1500m first round on Thursday night.
Grunewald then kneeled to the track, but she wasn’t alone for long. The rest of the nine-woman heat came up to her to form a circle. They prayed.
Grunewald called it “a little moment of solidarity” after a whirlwind, difficult year.
She raced at USATF Outdoors in between chemotherapy treatments, battling cancer for the fourth time since 2009. Grunewald was not sure she would be able to make it to Sacramento, spending Sunday in the ER with a 101-degree fever for precautionary reasons.
Her next chemotherapy infusion is Tuesday.
“Running is getting harder for me, there’s no way around it,” said Grunewald, who finished in 4:31.18, 17 seconds shy of advancing to Saturday’s final, where the top three are in line to qualify for worlds. “I know that it’s super bittersweet because I would love to be here at 100 percent competing for a [worlds] spot because I know that’s still in me somewhere, but it’s just not this year.”
Grunewald, who finished fourth in the 2012 Olympic Trials, raced for the seventh time since May 5, after learning in March that her liver cancer returned. She’s done competing for this year but plans to return in 2018.
“I really am just going to be excited to float on a lake this summer in between my chemo infusions,” she said. “I’m trying to be the best example that I can be of somebody who’s trying to persevere through something difficult.
“I’m super grateful for the support, and I hope I can be back in the future and not running on chemo and be cancer free — that’s the goal.”
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Everything about this hurt. Everything about this felt good. ✨I never knew a broken heart could feel so whole. Cancer slowed me down, but I haven't let it stop me. Track, I'll be back. ❤️ . The post-race support/prayer/group embrace was an amazing moment showcasing the #sisterhood among us competitors. We push each other in every race, but we also care deeply about one another. I am overwhelmed with the support of these women and everyone in the stadium last night. Thank you. ❤️ . #cancercantstopme #nothingisimpossible #usachampionships #trackgirls #juskkeeprunning #dowhatyoulove #cancersurvivor #chemorunners . 📸1: @usatf, 📸2: @flotracktv