Race #50 – Running Brave Like Gabe

Brave – having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty; having or showing courage

On the run, I feel like the truest version of myself.

Gabe Grunewald

Race #50: The Brave Like Gabe 5K

The Cause: rare cancer research, via the Brave Like Gabe Foundation, to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

My heart is full.

Today, September 6, 2020 this year-long journey ended on its highest note. That’s because I was surrounded by about 25 of the best running friends. I can’t say enough good things about them–they were all supportive, encouraging and caring–caring enough to join me and run with me, for the 50th of my 50 races. They believed in my causes, and even more special to me, they believed in me and my ability (or insanity?) to complete 50 races within a year, even with a worldwide pandemic.

Belief and hope and faith–that’s what this run was all about.

The Brave Like Gabe Virtual 5k celebrates the life of professional American runner Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald and “spreads hope in a time of uncertainty.”

“Brave Like Gabe” started as a hashtag several years ago, to show support for Gabe as she underwent treatment for her third battle with an incurable rare salivary gland cancer. She was passionate about sharing her story, continuing to run, and trying to make a positive impact in the time she was given. She passed away in June of 2019.

You can still make something beautiful and something powerful out of a really bad situation.

Gabe Grunewald

I chose the Brave Like Gabe 5K as my final 50th race because it ties together everything my campaign has been about: giving back to a great cause while celebrating life–and celebrating the running community. Gabe Grunewald was an amazing inspiration, not only for her running talents, but for her optimistic outlook despite facing rare cancer.

Running is a gift and, all along this journey, I wanted to use this gift to “give back” to worthy causes that would benefit others. It’s been exciting, meaningful, inspiring, emotional at times, and a ton of fun, to share this year-long journey with friends and runners along the way.

As you can tell from my previous race recaps, many friends have joined me throughout this journey–and those friendships and time together have meant the world to me. Only a true friend will rise at the crack of dawn–and agree to sweat, work–perhaps endure some heat, pain or rain– and persevere, alongside you.

It’s also the power of running. Because running is life-changing.

It not only changes our lives as runners, but as we run races, it changes others’ lives for the better. It supports amazing people defying odds and overcoming challenges that last much longer than our typical 5K times. Running supports charities doing incredible work, researching diseases, searching for cures, innovating social change, trying to make the wrongs of our society, right. Striving for better. It’s bravery at its best.

Being brave for me, means not giving up on the things that make me feel alive.

Gabe Grunewald

Every runner has a story–a motivation driving them out the door, even on cold, rainy or otherwise less-than-desireable days. Every one of my friends who came to my 50th race today is absolutely amazing as runners and friends.

We gathered on City Island, Harrisburg, which is where many of us met in the first place, and where many of us have run together many times in the past–and I’m sure–where we’ll continue logging miles together in the future. We ran a beautiful 5K route familiar to many of us, along the Capital Area Greenbelt along the Susquehanna River. It was simply the most perfect, beautiful, late summer September morning.

And here’s where I get overwhelmed. It is still hard for me to put my thoughts into words… I am overwhelmed by my friends’ kindness, by their kind words and gifts, and because I was holding back tears all morning. I’ll be able to put things in better perspective in time, but for now, I want to let the following photos speak for themselves in expressing the joy, friendship and love I felt this morning.

Alex and Joanne surprised me with a real finish line & balloons… they are the best.
Approaching the finish line!
I don’t think I’ve ever (or will again) break through a finish line first… what a gift!
Ruth, Cathy, Mike
Hurray for Ruth, Cathy & Mike
Nick & Katie, plus my wonderful run bud Morgan. She encouraged me at every turn. AND I believe she was the first person, after my husband, who heard about my “50 races” idea last year, as we shared some miles together on a rail trail.
Ali and Crystal… They were at race #1, many in between, and here at race #50.
Dan and Linda were super shy as they crossed the finish line… 🙂
Robin has such joy on her face!

Fred had the chance to meet Gabe. Here are his memories of that experience:

“We met at a Fleet Feet conference. She was incredibly positive and had such an optimistic view of running and life. She just seemed so upbeat and living in the moment. She really seemed to embrace the spotlight she had of being young, an elite runner and also having a rare sickness that was so unpredictable. She was able to show so much bravery and enthusiasm for life. Really amazing experience.”

Joanne brought & popped the champagne! What a treat… at 9 am! 😉

I wanted to treat my friends! So I ordered amazing cupcakes from Ann’s Cupcakery, Mechanicsburg: Blueberry-Lemon, Peanut Butter Chocolate, and Strawberries & Cream. Champagne & cupcakes… post-race parties will never be the same.

Allison is a special running friend! She has also been our trusted dogsitter… AND we share the same amazing birthday, 9/9.
Susan & I are fellow freelance writers… She has a beautiful spirit & smile.

Cathy pointed out an amazing sight, as we gathered on City Island! There was a beautiful bald eagle flying overhead. I had never seen one fly over City Island before. Some of my friends said it was God telling me to fly high by reaching my goal today. It happened so suddenly and we were all so incredulous that we didn’t have the chance to snap a photo. Truly a magical moment.

UPDATE!

The September 6, 2020 Brave Like Gabe Virtual 5K chalked up the following stats:

  • 2,282 participants across the U.S. plus countries around the world including our group of 25-ish runners in Harrisburg, PA
  • More than $75,000 raised for rare cancer research, as a grand total

3 comments

  1. Karen Honey!!! Congratulations on your amazing 50 for 50 challenge that you rocked! I am so blessed to know you…. you are an amazing gift of encouragement and bravery and kindness… Love to you and Happy Upcoming Birthday, Leslie

    Like

    • Kind words… from my oldest (longest) friend… mean the world. Thank you dear friend! Your friendship and support through this endeavor kept my spirits and energy high! I’m sad that COVID interrupted our plans to run together at Valley Forge but I look forward to making plans when things clear up. We will do a special run or race, soon!

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  2. Karen,

    What a great birthday gift you gave to yourself. But by doing so, you’ve inspired others. Not that I intend to become a runner, but inspiration can come in other ways — in this case, promoting perseverance. I’m really proud to know you. Congratulations! (So what are you gonna do at 51?)–billb.

    Like

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