Brant Gniewek, who this year was scheduled to run 52 races of varying distances, including marathons, to help others in the fight against cancer, died unexpectedly on Tuesday, May 28. He was found by police in his Northside apartment. Gniewek was 30.
Final results from an autopsy have not been released, but preliminary testing show the cause of death was a heart attack, said Blain Gniewek, 34, his oldest brother.
"He was like my best friend beside from being like my little brother. I talked to him all the time," Blain said. "He literally just ran himself to death between the running and the 50 or 60 hours per week of work, etc.
"My brother was the healthiest and most successful of all of us. It doesn't make sense."
Gniewek was profiled in the Windy City Times last December, when he told about his 52 For 52 charity. See www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Brant-Gniewek-Running-52-races-to-fight-cancer/40667.html .
"I have been very passionate about fighting cancer, and beating it," Gniewek said last year. "As I was planning my races for , I came up with the idea to run one race a week for one person to help raise money for them to fight and beat cancer. After playing around with the idea, I came up with 52 for 52 to help fight cancer. The original idea was to [run] 52 races and raise money, but that turned into starting my own charity: 52 for 52."
Gniewek had run 18 races this year, and already was registered for eight others.
Blain said his brother's charity will continue, and that family and friends will now run races in Gniewek's memory.
"Brant was extremely dedicated to his charity, 52 For 52, and was always looking for the next race to help others beat cancer," said Craig Wu of Chicago. "He was looking to get '26.2the miles in a marathontattooed to help him keep focused on what he was doing.
"His bright blue eyes, witty charm, and calm confidence will be missed by anyone who was fortunate to have known him. May he find peace. He can finally stop running."
Matt Merkt, of Chicago, said Wednesday that Gniewek did in fact get the 26.2 tattoo, in Roman numerals, on Sunday afternoon.
Gniewek was out with friends Monday afternoon and they were scheduled to meet at 8 p.m. for dinner, but Gniewek didn't show. "They figured he had just fallen asleep, so they just let him sleep," Blain said.
On Tuesday, Gniewek didn't show up for work at the mortgage company where he was a funder, so company officials called his family.
After social media posts for information about Gniewek's whereabouts went unanswered, the police went to his apartment in Wrigleyville, where he was found, Blain said.
"From what we can tell, he just overdid it. He wasn't sleeping, coupled with everything else," Blain said.
Services are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, at Resurrection Funeral Home in Clinton Township, Mich. Gniewek moved to Chicago from his native Michigan in the summer of 2010.
Gniewek ran his first-ever marathon, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, in 2011 to support the cancer organization Imerman Angels. He also ran the 2012 Chicago Marathon again to support Imerman Angels, of which he was a member of the charity's professional board.
Gniewek played softball in the predominantly gay Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA).
"He always wanted to be married and have kids, but he never got those opportunities," Blain said. "But my kidsConnor, 10; Emery, 7; Mykia, 4; and Layla, 2were like his kids; he spoiled them rotten and they are now completely distraught about [his death]. He was a phenomenal uncle."
Gniewek also had another brother, Brad, 32, and five other nieces and nephews.
His parents are Terry and Stan.
"I am very excited to take on this adventure in 2013, [though] it will be the hardest thing I have ever done," Gniewek said in 2012. "It will take a lot of support from friends and family just to get me through the races, and even more support from everyone to raise the money to help in the fight. On top of running, I will be putting in a lot of time getting this charity started. It's a huge challenge, but I am up for it."
For more information on Gniewek's 52 for 52 running challenge charity to support the fight against cancer, go to 52for52tofightcancer.blogspot.com .