This past weekend, a 33-year-old runner from Austin, Texas, became one of the first women with Down syndrome to complete the New York City Marathon. And crossing the line with her mom Sandy by her side, Kayleigh Williamson seemed overwhelmed as she burst into tears at her impressive accomplishment.
Considering the physical challenges that people with Down syndrome often have to deal with — such as lower muscle tone, coordination issues, and even heart defects — it is an achievement Kayleigh can be truly proud of.
The determined athlete ran the race in 10 hours and 9 minutes, and according to People it was filled with “dancing, hugging, and high fives.”
Her mom explained that the spectators were instrumental in keeping Kayleigh going:
Every time she heard music she stopped to dance. It was very emotional for her at the end, the last two miles. But then someone turned up music on their phone and she would dance a little. Then she would cry.”
She went on to explain that despite suffering from sore muscles that were affecting her, Kayleigh just kept on going until the very end.
However, Kayleigh was happy to share that on this momentous occasion she was a “diva,” stating: “The whole race I was always fixing my hair. I did a victory dance at the finish line.”
A passion made from love
While Kayleigh’s performance was impressive, it wasn’t the first time she’d put on her running shoes. She has already completed 21 miles of the Austin marathon and has notched up an impressive 20 half-marathons since she began running in 2017.
Sandy explained that the mother-daughter duo started running together when her own mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Seeking to make some healthier lifestyle choices, Sandy decided running would be a great option and from there the pair started running races together.
Although the destinations were chosen for a rather poignant reason:
“My mom used to tell us she escaped from the nursing home and had traveled to all these places like California and Colorado. So what we started doing was finding races in those states to turn her temporary memory into permanent ones. Kayleigh would take her medal back and show it to my mom.”
Kayleigh’s grandmother passed away in 2021. However, she was not far from Kayleigh’s thoughts during her impressive marathon. On the back of her shirt, she had the message: “Running in memory of my grandma, memories matter, Alzheimer’s awareness.”
And as Sandy explained:
My daughter has this ability to just see into people’s hearts. That for me was that pivotal moment because during the race, she kept saying ‘Mom, you’re running for grandma too.'”