On Saturday, November 18th, Kayleigh Williamson and her mother, Sandy, spent the morning training on Town Lake and then sat down with William Dyson for the next Staying Vertical interview. Kayleigh is a highly decorated athlete and became the first runner with Down syndrome to complete the Austin Half Marathon in 2017. During the Staying Vertical interview, they chat about what it felt like to cross the Austin Half Marathon finish line, the support of her friends and coaches, what’s it like to impact people around the world, and who would win if she and her mom competed in various events. Read her interview below and if you see her on the trail or running around town give her a huge high five!
William Dyson – You’re a runner. When did you begin running? Why?
Kayleigh Williamson – I started running in 2013 because of my health. I had to take medication for Grave’s disease. I’m in remission now, no more medication. But I still take vitamins.
WD – In addition to running, you’re a decorated basketball player and swimmer. Why is physical fitness important to you?
KW – Because it keeps me moving. I’ve been playing basketball since 2006. I’ve been swimming since 2008.
WD – Aside from running, you have to choose one: basketball or swimming. Go.
KW – Swimming (without hesitation).
WD – What are some positives you see from remaining so active? What are some obstacles?
KW – Because I’ve been swimming for a while, I’ve seen the progress athletes see when they get better from practice. I get better sleep at night. I don’t have to take my medicine anymore. I always remember the Special Olympics motto, “Let ME be brave. Let US be strong.”
When I started running more I had a leg injury. I went to RunLab and they fixed the pain.
WD – Earlier this year, you became the first individual with Down syndrome to complete the entire Austin Half Marathon course. What was going through your mind when you crossed the finish line?
KW – I remember crossing the finish line and felt so happy that I had to do my victory dance. I was so glad to have my friends at the finish line. My friend Shane from RunLab was there the whole time, holding my hand at the finish line. Shane would play Britney Spears, she’s my favorite because she’s from the same place as me, McComb, Miss.
KW – I really do like it. I liked being on TV, talking about my mom. I’m proud of myself. I do races and events for my grandma. She has a bad memory, she can’t walk or run. She’s my motivating factor.
WD – Your story has been seen and your impact has been felt around the world. You’re positively impacting others with your accomplishments. How does that feel?
KW – It’s a good thing. I’m proud of myself. I’m showing everyone what I can do and that they can do it too.
WD – You plan to run the 2018 Austin Half Marathon. Do you feel like you have unfinished business?
KW – Yes!
WD – What are your race-day goals for February 18, 2018?
KW – I want to improve on my time. I want to run more of the course and walk less.
WD – How is training coming along?
KW – I ran four miles today (11/18) I’m doing good. I have my mom and my friend at 24-Hour Fitness, Gabriel, who helps me with the weights. Capital Metro takes me everywhere: 24-Hour Fitness, RunLab, McBeth Recreation Center.
WD – Take me through your Saturday training regimen.
KW – I get up early at 5:30 to run. I go to my Weight Wa