A Texas resident made history on Sunday, becoming one of the first women with Down syndrome to complete the New York City Marathon.
Williamson cried as she crossed the finish line with her mother, Sandy Williamson, who ran with her during the race.
“I am a diva,” Kayleigh Williamson told People. “The whole race I was always fixing my hair. I did a victory dance at the finish line.”
Sunday was not Kayleigh Williamson’s first marathon. In January 2022 she became the first person with Down syndrome to run in the Austin Marathon, KVUE-TV reported. A month later, her hometown honored her by proclaiming Feb. 20 as “Kayleigh Williamson Day” in Austin.
The runner also completed the Boston Marathon, becoming the second person with a cognitive disability to compete in the famed race, the television station reported. She has also run in 20 half-marathons, according to People.
But New York was a big one. Sandy Williamson. 56, said she was inspired by her daughter’s grit and determination.
“New York changed the way I saw my daughter,” Sandy told People. “Every time she heard music she stopped to dance. It was very emotional for her at the end, the last two miles.
“But then someone turned up music on their phone and she would dance a little. Then she would cry. Her muscles were sore and they were bothering her. Things like that. But Kayleigh didn’t stop. She didn’t want to give up.”
Flying back to Austin, Kayleigh Williamson had a layover in St. Louis, People reported. When an airport employee asked if she needed a wheelchair, her mother was quick to shoot that down, since her daughter had been running marathons since 2017.
“No, she just did a marathon,” Sandy Williamson said she told the employee. “I said, ‘She’s one of the first women with Down syndrome to do the New York City Marathon.’”
The employee announced the news to the passengers waiting at the terminal, the magazine reported.
“They announced it on the plane, too,” Sandy Williamson added. “Then they had Kayleigh go up to the cockpit to see inside and take pictures with the stewardess. We had people on the plane say they watched her on social media.”
She adds: “It was a little surreal. But Kayleigh being the diva that she is just wanted to give everyone hugs and kisses.”