On 5 November, the 53rd running of the New York City Marathon commenced when more than 50,000 people raced from Staten Island towards the finish line in Central Park, 26.2 miles away. Among the racers was Special Olympics Texas runner Kayleigh Williamson who made history as one of the first women with Down syndrome to complete the NYC Marathon (10:09:11).
"I like to run because it makes me feel happy." She also shared that she was taking in every moment of her most recent NYC Marathon, "I am a diva. The whole race I was always fixing my hair. I did a victory dance at the finish line."
Kayleigh formerly made history in 2017 when she became the first person with Down syndrome to complete the Austin Marathon. Since then, she has competed in more than 20 local and national half and full marathons including the Ascension Seton Half Marathon and the 2023 Boston Marathon.
In Boston, she battled through the elements including freezing temperatures and rain on the morning of the marathon and although she did not finish the race, Kayleigh did not let that stop her from pursuing her next major marathon where she proved she was more than capable of running all 26.2 miles of the NYC Marathon.
One of her friends and fellow marathoner is Special Olympics triathlete Chris Nikic who also ran in the 2023 Boston Marathon. The two Special Olympics racers represented Adidas’ Runner 321 program which has the goal to, “ensure neurodivergent people’s representation in mainstream sport.” With the continued action by Adidas alongside representatives like Kayleigh and Chris, marathons are becoming increasingly more inclusive for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The World Marathon Majors include both the NYC Marathon and the Boston Marathon which means Kayleigh is 33% of the way to competing in all six Marathon Majors.
Kayleigh is from Texas where she regularly competes in local and state-wide Special Olympics swimming competitions. On top of the continuous training for marathons and swim meets, Kayleigh does strength training and other physical activities which help her stay in shape and mentally prepare for her time in the pool and on the racecourse.