Kayleigh Williamson is breaking through personal barriers and hopes to inspire others to do the same.
The 26-year-old has Down syndrome and has been training to run a half-marathon in the hopes of becoming the first person with the disability to finish the 21.1K at the Austin Half-Marathon. That Texas running event is happening this coming weekend on Feb. 19.
MORE: Coping with depression
This story (including the video above) was initially reported on by news site Kxan.
Williamson got into running thanks to her mother. As she explains in the broadcast news story, she has a lot of value for the sport and says that it has changed her life.
In her preparations for the half-marathon, the runner has been training with specialists at RunLab– a running clinic which trains athletes of all abilities, analyzes a person’s gait, introduces cross-training workouts and treats running-related injuries should they pop up. According the Kxan News, they say that though they have worked with people with many different disabilities, this is the first time they have trained a person who has Down syndrome.
Williamson works one-on-one with Dr. Kimberly Davis, the owner of RunLab. In an interview with Kxan, she said that she doesn’t think a runner with Down syndrome has ever completed the Austin race. That would make Williamson the first. Because Williamson was introduced to running through her mother and because Davis has seen the positive benefits so far, she hopes that other parents will take note of Williamson’s race and encourage children with disabilities to pursue the lifestyle as well.
“We’re all going to be there running with her, cheering her on and hopefully getting her to the finish line. She’s been putting in the work so I think she can do it,” says Davis.
She’s not new to running either and this isn’t going to be her first time to the finish line. She has already done a 10-mile race in the past. This time around though, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas, an organization which Williamson is a member of, is raising funds. So far they have gathered $10,000 through this endeavor.
The organization is involved beyond just that though. Williamson is actually quite close with the board director, Allie McCann, and the two run together. McCann has a seven-year-old daughter with the same disability and is personally inspired by Williamson’s desire to excel in running despite this personal barrier. Even though she is high up on the board of a group like this and mothers a young person with Down syndrome, McCann says that running had not been on her radar.
“I was so excited because I have a seven-year-old-daughter with down syndrome and to be honest, it just wasn’t something on my radar,” she said. “I love hearing about people breaking barriers.”