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Austin City Council issues proclamation honoring Kayleigh Williamson

Feb. 20, 2022, is “Kayleigh Williamson Day,” the day she became the first person with Down syndrome to finish the Austin Marathon.

AUSTIN, Texas — One month after KVUE told the story of Kayleigh Williamson – her months worth of training and subsequent finish of the Ascension Seton Austin Marathon – the City of Austin honored her in a big way on Thursday.

Spearheaded by councilwoman Mackenzie Kelly, the city council issued a proclamation marking Feb. 20, 2022, as "Kayleigh Williamson Day" in Austin.

On that day, Kayleigh became the first person with Down syndrome to complete the Austin marathon.

"I first heard about Kayleigh's story by watching it on the news. I was glad that the headline caught my attention because when I was watching the news report, I was brought to tears," Kelly said in regard to the KVUE story. "The completion of this challenge sent a wave of inspiration throughout the city of Austin and beyond."

Kayleigh's journey to the finish line of 26.2 miles featured plenty of obstacles – most notably the cancellation of the race in 2021 due to COVID-19. 

But she kept with the training over the course of the next year, and was motivated by her support system of family and friends.

Sandy Williamson, Kayleigh's mom, ran every mile of training and every mile of the race with her daughter.

"I have a perfect mother," Kayleigh said after being honored by the Austin City Council. "She changed my life."

Credit: KVUE News

She was also joined on the course by Shane Niksic, her former trainer at Run Lab Austin who now lives in Colorado, Katie Field, who is an avid runner and has a daughter with Down syndrome, and William Dyson, a former race organizer.

Perhaps the biggest inspiration though came from her grandmother, who passed away last year after a battle with Alzheimer's.

"My grandma always told me, 'I am so proud of you for your marathon,'" Kayleigh said.

Sandy said that her mom was the reason why she and Kayleigh began their running journey in the first place. They were in search of a lifestyle change after a series of health complications for both Kayleigh and her grandmother.

Running solved most of them and eventually became a way for Kayleigh to honor the memory of her grandmother.

A full marathon had always been a bucket-list item.

Now that Kayleigh has completed her first, their focus now shifts back to finishing a half marathon in every state. In fact, they're set to run in one next week in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which is where Kayleigh was born.

Running in Austin, however, will always hold a special place in each of their hearts.

"I just don't think in any other city we would've had the pathway we had here," Sandy said.

Credit: KVUE News

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