Community stands behind runner whose medals were stolen

Posted at 11:37 PM, Jun 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-30 02:37:42-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A Pacific Beach woman says the prizes she wins after running a race are more than just medals. Andrea Abel says the secret to running is simple - run with your heart, not with your legs. She's been running for years, after losing her father and grandfather to cancer. A thief made off with those memories in a matter of minutes, while she was moving out of her apartment.

“Let’s face it, moving alone is tough," Abel said. "You put one box down to check on something else, and in the two minutes you’ve turned your back, someone else has looked inside.”

Abel was hauling boxes down the stairs, into the car, back up and down the stairs, when the theft happened. She says she was upstairs grabbing another load and when she came back, one of the boxes was gone.

“I immediately realized, oh my gosh, this is the box with all my racing medals," she said.

Roughly 100 medals, from seven years of races that she ran all over the country, swiped by someone who probably thought the value was in the metal itself.

“It’s so much more than just a ribbon on a string with a piece of metal attached to it. For each race it represents an attempt to get over my loss," Abel said. "A lot of these medals are engraved with things like, ‘in memory of you, dad.’”

Her first race in Chicago was in memory of her father. It was the same year that her grandfather died. Both had cancer.

After the theft, Abel immediately put up signs to recover the lost medals. The community responded in a big way - finding medals in dumpsters, alleys and ditched all across Pacific Beach. One running group even donated a dozen medals from the exact races she ran.

“Which was a huge, huge shock and just an amazing gift," Abel said.

Though dozens are still missing, Abel says the biggest thing she's gained from this is love for her neighbors.

“I really didn’t think we would get one back," she said. " So that I even have this many that represent this journey, is way more than I ever could have asked for.”