Putting Her Mark on the World through Running

Kayleigh is putting her mark on the world and improving her health through running

Sandy Williamson submitted My Running Story’s first entry. However, the story isn’t about her. It’s about Kayleigh, her daughter and the first runner with Down syndrome to cross the Austin Half Marathon finish line. Kayleigh’s health was trending in the wrong direction. She was faced with a difficult task, one she is still working towards today. Read how Kayleigh has greatly improved her health and is putting her mark on the world.

Kayleigh Williamson, the first runner with Down syndrome to cross the Austin Half Marathon finish line, is putting her mark on the world through running.

Kayleigh Williamson was surprised with her Austin Distance Challenge jacket at the 2019 Austin Half Marathon finish line.

The start of putting her mark on the world

Kayleigh began running shortly after she was diagnosed with ITP (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura – low blood platelets) in 2008. Auto-immune disorders tend to affect individuals with Down syndrome. In 2012, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. That was in addition to developing sleep apnea due to her weight and becoming pre-diabetic. In 2014, her diagnoses changed from hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism (Grave’s Disease). 

In 2016, Kayleigh started training for the Austin Half Marathon (her first!) as part of the Austin Distance Challenge. However, along the way, her platelets dropped to a life-threatening level and she had to have her spleen removed. This affected her training due to her recovery. But nine months later, she stood at her first half marathon. That first race took her almost six and a half hours to complete, but she completed it. She did not earn her jacket for the Distance Challenge.

Running to succeed 

Not earning her jacket did not deter her from signing up two more times for the Austin Distance Challenge. On her third attempt, she earned her jacket. During her attempts to complete the Distance Challenge, she steadily lost weight resulting in the elimination of her sleep apnea. Kayleigh’s sugar count was back in a normal range and her Grave’s Disease went into remission. She did not develop any new autoimmune diseases and was taken off all medications. In 2019, not only did she earn her jacket, Kayleigh lost a total of 60 pounds.

Kayleigh Williamson’s book, It’s Cool to Be Me.

Through running

Kayleigh completed her first out-of-state half marathon last April. She helped found Kayleigh’s Club, a  nonprofit running group for runners with disabilities. Kayleigh was not raised to use Down syndrome as a reason for not trying something. She was raised to know that there are things she will be able to do just like everyone else (and we celebrate that). Just like everyone else, there will be things she won’t be able to do (and we celebrate that since that means it’s something for someone else to do and we want to cheer them on).

Running has empowered Kayleigh to the point of writing and publishing her first children’s book. It’s Cool To Be Me is about the experience of her first half marathon. Her first book signing will take place on Thursday, July 11th, in Austin, Texas, at Fleet Feet Austin. Kayleigh is an Athlete Ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society. She has goals to influence other individuals with disabilities to start running and make healthy food choices.

My Running Story is a series of blog submissions from runners just like yourself. They submitted their inspirational running stories as part of a contest to win an entry of their choice to the 2020 Ascension Seton Austin Marathon. Their stories range from crossing their first finish line to drastic lifestyle change due to running. Everyone’s story is different and unique, impacting them in a specific way. While each story is specific to the author, everyone can resonate in some form or fashion because of the power of running. Submissions will be accepted through July 31, 2020.

8 East Austin Restaurants Near the Austin Marathon Course

Check out some of our favorite East Austin restaurants near the Austin Marathon course

East Austin has no shortage of amazing and delicious restaurants, from Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, Eater Austin’s 2017 Restaurant of the Year, to the legendary, no-frills Sam’s BBQ. We’re proud to have the Ascension Seton Austin Marathon course run through historical East Austin. Runners from around the world have a chance to visit and taste want we enjoy on a daily basis. Check out our list below of East Austin restaurants near the Austin Marathon course!

East Austin Eating

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

A delicious spread at Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, one of the Austin Marathon's favorite East Austin restaurants.

A delicious spread at Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, don’t skip the Brisket Ramen!

This east Austin izakaya (informal Japanese pub) from the team behind Ramen Tatsu-Ya. Kemuri Tats-ya (2713 E. 2nd St.) was Eater Austin’s 2017 Restaurant of the Year. This spot marries Texas and Japanese ingredients and techniques. We recommend the Texas Ramen because it’s delicious and contains a Texas staple, brisket. Your tastebuds will thank you! Photo credit: Kemuri Tatsu-Ya Facebook page.

Historic Victory Grill

The Victory Grill (1104 E. 11th St.) was a hub of Black nightlife and music in East Austin for decades. During its heyday in the 1950s, the club hosted artists such as Etta James, Billie Holliday, and B.B. King. The Victory Grill was known as a place where music lovers could get a good meal and enjoy great music. The club attracted people from all over Texas and transcended racial restrictions imposed by legalized segregation. It’s currently open Thursday through Sunday.

Sam’s BBQ

This no-frills, East Austin staple was started in 1957 by Sam Campbell. It has been serving Austin’s original hot sausage since then! Dan Mays Sr. took over after Sam’s death in 1976. Brian Mays, Dan’s son, forges ahead with Sam’s vision: to make delicious, high-quality, home-cooked meals for all appetites. Sam’s BBQ is located near Mile 19.5 of the Austin Marathon course (2000 E. 12th St. 78702). Carnivores can enjoy everything from brisket to mutton. The sides are delicious as well!

Buenos Aires Cafe, Este

The craft cocktails at Buenos Aires Cafe are top-notch, one of the Austin Marathon's favorite East Austin restaurants.

You have to try the specially crafted cocktails at Buenos Aires Cafe.

Buenos Aires Cafe is a must-add to your list! They celebrate the holy trinity of Argentine cuisine: meat, fire, and seasonal ingredients. They are particular about the ingredients they make and sell and responsibly source them to ensure only the finest products make it to your table. Pro tip: they’ll open for brunch soon and their drinks are refreshing! Photo credit: Buenos Aires Cafe, Este Facebook page.

Bufalina

Is pizza your thing? Grab a Neopolitan-style pie and a bottle of wine from Bufalina’s at 1519 E. Cesar Chavez. You can’t go wrong with any of their appetizers. Brush up on your wine knowledge, the list is quite extensive. Pro tip: pizzas are 50% off during happy hour (4:00 p.m. – 5:30)!

Pitchfork Pretty

Looking for a spot to grab some regional and seasonal food? Pitchfork Pretty (2708 E. Cesar Chavez) is your answer. Their menu consists of everything from vegan options to the enormous BBQ beef rib. Often what you see on their menu is what has been grown in their garden that’s about a mile away.

Sour Duck Market

The outdoor seating is perfect for a group of runners at Sour Duck Market, one of our favorite East Austin restaurants.

The outdoor seating is perfect for a group of runners at Sour Duck Market.

With an on-site smoker, Sour Duck (1814 E. MLK) smokes all of their meats in-house. Swing by for breakfast during the week to grab something from their coffee shop and bakery. Their outdoor seating is great when your friends want to get together for happy hour (Sunday – Thursday, 2:00 – 6:00). Check out the extensive list of who they work with in the local food community! Photo credit: Sour Duck Market Facebook page.

JuiceLand

JuiceLand (2601 E. Cesar Chavez) was founded in Austin in 2011. They now have 25 locations in or around Austin! Their menu is award-winning, offering a delicious array of cold-pressed bottled juices, vegan cuisine, smoothie bowls, shots, and cleanses. Take your pick of fresh-squeezed juices, they’re the perfect antidote for a hot, Texas day!

Was the above list of East Austin locations not enough? Visit these Google Maps of our favorite murals and other places we love around Austin!