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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.

WANTED: Inspirational Running Stories

Share your inspirational running stories with us to win a 2020 entry of your choice

Runners create inspirational running stories when they run the Austin Marathon on behalf of a loved one!Everyone has a running story and running means something different to everyone. Share your inspirational running stories with us for a chance to win one of 25 entries (distance of your choice)! Since 1992, the Ascension Seton Austin Marathon has seen thousands of runners cross their first 26.2-mile finish line. In 2017, Kayleigh Williamson became the first athlete with Down syndrome to cross the Austin Half Marathon finish line. Countless individuals got their first taste of running at the Austin Marathon 5K benefitting Paramount Theatre. Runners from around the world have experienced something special on the streets of Austin. We want to share that special moment!

What we want

Email us your running story and two high-res, original images. Your story can be about whatever you want. It can be about training for your first Austin Marathon (in 2020!), recent successes you’ve experienced, running on behalf of someone or something, or something extraordinary. We just want to know what running has done for you. Stories must be between 300-400 words. High-res images must be your own (or those that you’ve purchased or been given permission to use) and you must send the original image. 

How to submit

Email your story and the two high-res images to info@youraustinmarathon.com by July 31st. Title the email My Running Story. Please provide hyperlinks to all of your social channels for sharing purposes. You have until July 30th to submit your inspirational running story. That means you can submit your story as early as today. We will contact winners and inform them of next steps. We’ll post your inspirational running stories to the Austin Marathon blog. The Austin Marathon will share your inspirational running stories on social media.

Rules

All submissions must adhere to the requirements. Incomplete submissions will not be reviewed. Winners will be contacted within ten business days of their submission. Winners will win an entry of their choice to the 2020 Austin Marathon, half marathon, or Austin Marathon 5K. Submissions will stop being accepted when 25 submissions have been accepted or on July 31st.

History Made at the 2017 Austin Marathon

Kayleigh Williamson made history on February 19th at the 2017 Austin Marathon® presented by NXP. She became the first female participant with Down syndrome to complete the Austin half marathon. Despite warmer than normal temperatures, Williamson finished the 13.1-mile course in six hours and 23 minutes. All throughout the course, Kayleigh had thousands of cheering supporters, including a race official and a local police K-9 unit. She approached the finish line in a dead sprint surrounded by her mother, amazing friends, and her RunLab coaches.

Williamson and race official Rod Newlin. Credit RunLab.

“I loved the race and that I was able to race with all of my friends and inspire others,” said Williamson.

Roughly 125,000 participants, spectators, and volunteers enjoyed the 26th annual Austin Marathon, produced by High Five Events. Former Austinite Joe Thorne (2:32:05) and Austinite Allison Macsas (2:48:16) both won the marathon; while South Africa’s Sphamandla Nyembe (1:11:36) and former Austinite Allison Mendez (1:21:42) won the half marathon. FloTrack provided live coverage of the marathon and captured everyone as they crossed the finish line.

Coming back to Austin was wonderful because it holds a special place in my heart,” said Thorne. “Being able to race and win the championship is amazing.”

Second and third place in the marathon for the men went to Daniel Bishop of Salt Lake City (2:33:02) and former Austinite Jared Carson (2:35:11). Central Park Track Club’s Caroline Veltri (2:58:36) and Austinite Jennifer Harney (3:07:26) finished the marathon second and third respectively.

Post-race Congress Ave.

Although I’ve been involved in the Austin Marathon as a pacer for years, nothing could have prepared me for what a special experience it would be to race it for the first time,” said Allison Macsas, female marathon champ. “The local support out on the course and behind the scenes (thanks FloTrack!) was incredible, and played a huge part in carrying me through some very tough spots to the first marathon win of my life – a win made even more special by the fact that it was here at home!

Adam Waldum of Cedar Park (1:12:33) and Nicholas Sterghos of Colorado Springs (1:16:05) finished second and third in Sunday’s half marathon. The second and third place females in the half marathon were Beth Panke (1:24:48) and Tracie Akerhielm (1:26:10).

FloTrack’s world-class coverage followed the men’s and women’s elite field throughout the race and watched as every participant crossed the line. At times they had a trio of announcers highlighting the Austin Marathon and interviewing staff, sponsors, and the winners live. Participants and spectators were both able to enjoy the enhanced finish line festival that included a beer garden, TriggerPoint Recovery Zone, two Jumbotrons that displayed FloTrack’s live coverage, and several local food trucks.

Macsas, Manzano, and Thorne. Credit – Manzano

Official Race Ambassador and two-time Olympian Leo Manzano pumped up the runners before they began their race. He was also the inspiration for the Manzano Mile, which was the final marathon, half marathon, and 5K. Manzano is known for his signature kick, which helped him win the silver medal at the London Games in 2012. Every participant kicked for their last mile and finished with the heart of a lion.

To cap off the amazing day Chikage Windler, CBS Austin Chief Meteorologist and Austin Gives Miles Charity Chaser, started the marathon in last place. As the Charity Chaser, she ran on behalf of Camp Kesem – University of Texas and raised $1.25 for every marathoner she passed. She finished in 926th place and raised $3671.25.

The weather didn’t do us any favors, but I was humbled to run on behalf Camp Kesem UT,” said Windler. “And I’m already looking forward to next year!

Mr. Clemmer, Jack Murray, and Mayor Adler

Participants can see their results on the website and continue to share their amazing experiences on the Austin Marathon’s social media channels. For those planning ahead to February 18, 2018, next year’s registration is open and set at the low price of $90 (marathon) and $70 (half marathon). This amazing deal will be available until January 25th. Runners can find their race day photos on Marathonfoto.com. Search for ‘Austin Marathon 2017’ and enter your last name or bib number.

The Austin Marathon would like to thank the volunteers, sponsors, spectators and participants They would also like to thank NXP CEO Richard Clemmer, Mayor Steve Adler, silver medalist Leo Manzano, and former race directors John and Stacey Conley for their race day support.