At Staples High School, Collin Carroll led an active life. He captained the rugby team, and served as president of the EMS Explorers program.
He went on to the University of North Carolina, graduating a year early with a major in communications and a minor in environmental studies.
He earned certification as a personal trainer, and worked first in Denver, now New York. He’s fascinated with the human body: how it works, and how to make it better. This fall, he’ll enter Columbia University’s pre-med program.
That’s the short story: high-achieving Staples students climbs the ladder of opportunity and success.
Here’s the longer version.
In 2009, as a Staples junior, Collin was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Fortunately, the painful, debilitating disease was soon brought under control. For a couple of years, he felt good.
But in the spring of 2011 — as UNC finals started — Colin’s symptoms reappeared. His health deteriorated. He calls the 4-month period from April to August “very, very dark.”
By the 2nd week of classes in September, he’d lost so much blood he could not walk up a flight of stairs. A trip to the emergency room turned into a week in the hospital.
Fortunately — again — a drug regimen worked. Slowly, he started to feel better.
Amazingly, in the midst of his darkest days, Collin had signed up for an Ironman competition. “I wasn’t playing rugby, so I wanted a new challenge,” he explains, as if every sufferer of a severe bowel inflammation wants to swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles on a bike, then run a marathon — without a break.
He could not begin training until January. But within 7 months, he was in good enough shape to complete the particularly rugged Lake Placid Ironman.
Competing against experienced Ironman athletes — none of them probably suffering from ulcerative colitis — Colin finished in 13 hours, 15 minutes. He was 20th in his age group, and in the top half of all competitors.
“It made a huge difference in my life,” he says — again as if this is no big deal. Though he does add, “It was just as hard as everyone said.”
The low point came midway through the marathon, he says. “You’ve finished all the biking and swimming. You’ve already run 13 miles — and you’ve still got 13 more to go.”
But, he notes, crossing the finish line was “the best I’ve ever felt. It was much better than graduating from school.”
He pauses. “I feel bad for my future wife. Marriage might not be as great as finishing an Ironman.”
He ran the next 2 Lake Placid Ironmans too, improving to 12:45 and 10:53 respectively. (Note: Those are hours and minutes. An Ironman is quite a way to spend half your day.)
Yet Collin will not compete in Lake Placid this year. Instead he’s doing the Ironman Maryland.
He chose that Eastern Shore event because it’s linked with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Collin hopes to raise $5,000 for the organization, which works to find a cure for diseases like ulcerative colitis.
“I’m doing this for people who aren’t lucky enough to have what I have — who can’t run an Ironman because they can’t get out of bed,” Collin says.
“My time was so chilling and dark. I know what that feels like — and I know that could be me again someday. Right now, I’m just doing what I can.”
Ironman Maryland is in October. Collin’s already begun fundraising (click here to help).
But he’s also looking beyond the fall.
When the Ironman is over, Collin hopes to train people with Crohn’s and colitis, to run their own races.