Family of former UMD hockey captain honors memory through Grandmas Marathon

Andrew Carroll running. Photo courtesy of Carissa Carroll

Andrew Carroll running. Photo courtesy of Carissa Carroll

Andrew Carroll spent more time in hockey skates than running shoes, but this June he was going to run his first Grandma's Marathon. The 32-year-old former UMD hockey captain died in January, but his sister-in-law Carissa Carroll, will be running in his place and wearing his race bib.

“I've ran the Grandma's Marathon four times, and this will be my ninth marathon,” Carissa said. “I've had three babies since my last one in 2009 but running for Andrew gives me the greatest motivation to have a good run. When Andrew’s Grandma's Marathon jacket arrived in the mail, I thought this would be a perfect time for my running partner and I to do another one.”

Andrew took his own life this past January and instead of having his bib number go uncompleted, Carissa decided to change his name on the registration to her very own name.

“What inspired me is that Andrew was always a hard worker and he always finished things he started and it just felt right for me to wear his bib crossing the finish line in a city he loved,” Carissa said.

Carissa and her friend, Katie Bjorklund, have been training together and running marathons for the past 12 years after they met during a pre-season run for volleyball at Bethel University. They live in the Twin Cities.

“Carissa is a loyal, feisty, hard-working, passionate, go getter,” Bjorklund said. “She fiercely loves those around her.”

Carissa’s husband is Chris Carroll, Andrew Carroll's older brother. He is proud to have Carissa run in honor of his brother.

“To know there is a piece of him that’s running with her means so much to me,” Chris said.

Katie Bjorklund, left, and Carissa Carroll, right, from the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Mile Marathon in October of 2017. Photo courtesy of Katie Bjorklund

Katie Bjorklund, left, and Carissa Carroll, right, from the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Mile Marathon in October of 2017. Photo courtesy of Katie Bjorklund

Chris and his family made the decision to have Andrew’s brain sent to the CTE Center at Boston University to see if his history of repetitive brain trauma from his hockey career caused his death. Researchers are investigating the connection between sport-related brain injuries and suicide.

“It was an easy decision,” Chris said. “If we can help someone else, we will do it. In some respect, it brought some comfort to my parents. Obviously, it won’t bring him back, but it certainly would give us answers and help us as we process this pain we are feeling.”

Andrew’s death not only affected his friends and family, but also many in his community including the UMD hockey team.

A written statement from UMD’s hockey staff following Andrew’s death said, “Andrew was a driven student-athlete, loyal teammate and selfless leader. He exemplified Bulldog hockey in every way, and it is clear how much he meant to this program by the outpouring of emotion we have received from his teammates and other alumni.”

After Andrew’s death, every player on the UMD hockey team put Andrew’s initials on the back of their helmets to honor him for the remainder of the season.

“It’s really great and incredibly comforting to see the hockey program in Duluth honor Andrew," Chris said. "The decals on the helmets, so many that have reached out, and all the messages. To hear stories and the impact he made on so many in Duluth is so great to hear, and to hear players messages and tributes is incredible.”

Andrew ran his first marathon last fall at the Twin Cities Marathon. He signed up for that marathon with friends that he used to babysit in his neighborhood.

“He had a great first half but then his massive quads cramped up, but still had a smile on his face as he shuffled to the finish line,” Carissa said.

Carissa went on to say how Andrew was always interested in joining the fun and taking on new experiences. His positivity and motivation was demonstrated in everything from helping coach hockey to volunteering in his community.  

This will not be the first time that Carissa and Bjorklund run a race to honor someone.

“Our last six miles of every race we dedicate to someone and focus on that person to help get us through," Bjorklund said. "The last mile is always dedicated to her sweet son Jack who has Down syndrome. Carissa is someone you want on your team every day.”

Less than two months left before Grandma's Marathon, Carissa is preparing for the biggest race of her life, but has her mind focused on why and who she is running for.

“We miss him like crazy and I feel honored to represent him at Grandma’s,” Carissa said.