AUSTIN – If you want to meet a winner, you should meet the very last person to finish the Austin Half Marathon. Her name is Kayleigh Williamson. She is 26. On Sunday, she became the first person with Down syndrome to finish the 13.1 mile race. She did it in six hours, 22 minutes and 57 seconds.
At times she ran. At other times, she walked. Supporters, including her mom, as well as her trainer, were constantly there by her side. She might have wanted to stop a thousand times, but her will kept her moving. A support crowd of about a dozen people started the race with her. A crowd of about two dozen finished the race with her.
Even though a couple of miles into the race, every other runner was out of sight, Williamson kept going. A race official followed in a pickup behind the crowd. Law enforcement closed roads and intersections to make sure that this 26-year-old safely accomplished her goal. At times, the officer offered encouragement over his cruiser’s public address system. Drivers, who might have otherwise been annoyed by the brief road closure, quickly realized what was happening and started to also offer encouragement.
Britney Spears, Williamson’s favorite artist, played on an iPhone during the toughest times. “Frank,” one of her supporter’s dogs provided emotional support as he walked with her too. The people who ran and walked with her realized that they took away from this experience more than they offered.
For an experienced runner, the tall hill on Metric heading into downtown Austin is intimidating. Williamson felt the same. For a moment, she stopped, crossed her arms and offered an exaggerated frown. Then she kept going. Step by step until she reached the top.
The sight of the Capitol dome offered special help. Her friends (some new, some old) made an arch for her to walk under in front of the Capitol grounds. As she turned the corner onto Congress Avenue, she could see the finish line. There was no stopping Williamson or the emotions as the race organizers reopened the long-closed finish line for the half marathon. Williamson finished her race as the race director put the coveted medal around her neck. After about 30,000 steps, she had her medal and the marathon…once again….made history.