A 32-year-old woman from South Austin, Texas made history last month as she became the first person with Down Syndrome to win a 26.2-mile marathon.
Live Action News reported that Kayleigh Williamson won the Ascension Seton Austin Marathon last February 20 in 6 hours, 43 minutes, and 51 seconds. Her victory is the second time she made a historical feat, the first being in 2017 for being the first person with Down Syndrome to complete the Austin Half Marathon.
Kayleigh's mother, Sandy, told KVUE that it has always been her daughter's dream to complete a marathon. Kayleigh's victory came after many years of hardship because the moment she was born, Sandy was told that she basically can not do anything because of her medical condition.
Sandy recalled the morning after she gave birth to Kayleigh when the doctors told her there was a "slight problem" on the baby since she had a slight Down syndrome. Doctors encouraged her to put Kayleigh for adoption or to send her to Baton Rouge, where an institution could take care of her. But Sandy rejected all their suggestions since she was firm in having her baby and bringing her home.
Kayleigh also encountered a lot of difficulties during her childhood besides being abandoned by her father, being poor, and being bullied by children. Sandy shared that after Kayleigh's father saw her when she was born, he left and never again saw her. They had to live through welfare most of the time during those years.
Add to this, the challenges Kayleigh experienced because of her health. One of these challenges involved being diagnosed with low blood platelets or ITP for no particular reason in 2008. This was followed by a diagnosis for hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, sleep apnea, pre-diabetes, and Graves disease.
Yet she endured all these serious health issues, most of which are already cured. Running became a means for Kayleigh to reduce her weight and regain her good health. Sandy revealed that this came as an inspiration after Kayleigh's grandmother was diagnosed with dementia after suffering a second major stroke. Sandy realized then that there was a need for her and her daughter to have a change in lifestyle.
"I remember coming home and looking in the mirror and thinking, 'You're a hypocrite. Look at the lifestyle you have your daughter in.' I know the rate of Alzheimer's in individuals with Down syndrome. There are some health crises that we're not going to have a choice and we're going to have to fight. But there are others that I don't have to open the door and invite it in," Sandy shared.
True enough, that decision proved worthwhile. Kayleigh and Sandy have participated in many marathons since then. Mother and child have completed 15 half-marathons and their recent full marathon. Sandy said she joined the marathons to ensure her daughter is encouraged accordingly as she sees her "actively with her" instead of just cheering for her on the sidelines.
"I don't believe that our circumstances should dictate who we become. I think our circumstances are a part of who we become. And the true testimony of who you are, and your character, is what you take of those circumstances and make yourself out of," Sandy emphasized.
In addition to winning marathons, Kayleigh has also authored a children's book entitled, "It's Cool To Be Me" in 2019. The book conveys her journey of running in marathons, which readers could follow her into doing themselves.