Carissa Carroll, her husband and his parents drove a long six hours to Chicago after hearing Andrew Carroll – Carissa's brother-in-law – was in critical condition after falling at the Chicago O'Hare airport in January. He died two days later. The fall was an attempt to take his life.
Later Sally and Bill Carroll – Andrew's parents – got something in the mail. It was Andrew's Grandma's Marathon registration. Bill asked if Carissa would consider running in place of Andrew. Carissa had run marathons in the past but not since she had three children. Carissa texted her running partner Katie Bjorklund and they started training for the marathon.
Andrew played hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth as a four-year captain. After his time playing at Duluth, he went on to play professional hockey. Running the marathon in Duluth, a city and place where Andrew was known and loved, was emotional for Carissa.
“Going up to Duluth to run the marathon for him was fun and special because Andrew loved Duluth,” she said.
Carissa has run eight marathons in the past but training for Grandma's Marathon had a different feeling because of the circumstances.
“The training provided a time of reflection and healing,” Carroll said. “When you run in honor of someone, you keep in mind who that person was. Out of all the marathons I ran, this one felt like it had greater purpose.”
Bjorklund remembers getting a text from Carissa asking if she would be willing to run with her. Bjorklund panicked inside because she felt she was not in the greatest shape and they would already be a month behind in training.
“I thought about it for a couple minutes and decided that it's not really about me and it would be good for her if we ran this marathon together,” Bjorklund remembered.
Both women got sick during training. Carissa was battling the flu and Bjorklund had pneumonia. Still, after five months of training and getting a late start, they were ready to run Grandma's Marathon.
The pair ran with an AC20 logo on their running uniform to honor Andrew. AC are his initials and 20 was his hockey number at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. People at the marathon would recognize the logo and know it was Andrew's group.
In Duluth, Andrew was known as a hockey player and a hard worker. After his hockey days were over he wanted to run a marathon. He ran the Twin Cities marathon last October, and Carissa laughed remembering how he went out way too fast at the beginning and was practically shuffling at the end. He wanted to try it again and with Grandma's Marathon being in Duluth, it made a perfect match.
“The whole time it did not feel like real life,” Bjorklund said. “My husband Tyson and Carissa's husband Chris rode on some of Andrew's bikes to follow us around at the marathon and it felt wrong like he should've been here, not us.”
Andrew was working as a physical education teacher at Magnuson Christian School in White Bear Lake when he died.
“We remember Andrew as humble, unassuming, coachable, polite and encouraging,” said School Director Cheri Buelow. “He was a gentle giant of a man. Andrew knew the meaning of hard work. He had a heart for helping people. He loved to joke around with the students and always asked them about how they were doing in the sports they played.”
The school held a Mr. Carroll Day in May when they planted a tree in his honor.
“Everyone at Magnuson loved Mr. Carroll,” Buelow said. “We miss him so much.”