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21 Март 2024

Unstoppable Strides, The Kayleigh Williamson Story

An inspirational story of family, perseverance, and conquering the New York City Marathon

“Mom, I want to run the New York Marathon.”

Kayleigh Williamson may not have been the first person ever to speak those words, but her path to making them a reality on November 5th, 2023, is what makes her exceptional story such an inspiration.

For many, the mere thought of attempting the annual 26.2-mile New York City Marathon would be enough to make them wince in anguish. And while Kayleigh, a self-proclaimed “diva”, no doubt endured her fair share of pain while prevailing over last year’s event, it didn’t stop her from pausing to dance with spectators throughout her run (10:09:11). It also didn't stop her from making history as one of the first women with Down syndrome to complete the prestigious road race.

One doesn’t have to look far to see how vital familial support was to fortifying Kayleigh’s abundant self-determination and tenacity, traits essential to overcoming the challenges she faced from a young age.

“She had to overcome every single thing that she was told growing up that she couldn’t do to realize and embrace what she could do. She owned it,” says Sandy, Kayleigh’s mom, who ran by her side in New York. “People may have seen Down syndrome as a hurdle, but Kayleigh saw it as just another mile to conquer.”

For her incomparable resolve, Tarkett Sports is honored to support Kayleigh in her future marathons, fueling a journey that continues to inspire young athletes, whether they are a person living with or without a disability. This is the latest initiative under our “Better Tomorrow” program, dedicated to making a difference in the lives of kids across North America, especially those in high-need communities.

Kayleigh, who has trained and competed in numerous sports, making physical activity an essential part of her lifestyle, embodies everything “Better Tomorrow” represents. The responsibility to make a meaningful impact regarding accessibility and diversity in sports is one embraced by Tarkett Sports, and we’re proud to play a role in helping Kayleigh’s message of resilience and love of sport reach the next generation of athletes. In addition to being an accomplished athlete who has also flourished as a swimmer, basketball player, and student of Krav Maga, in 2019, Kayleigh became a published author, "It's Cool To Be Me", a children’s book about her life and love of sports, is dedicated to people with Alzheimer's, for which her grandmother received a diagnosis in 2017. Proceeds from book sales go to support Kayleigh's Club, a nonprofit group launched by Kayleigh and her mom to promote the importance of being physically active to families of people with disabilities.

“When I run, I feel free,” says Kayleigh, whose steadfast pursuit of such freedom also saw her become the first person with Down syndrome to complete the Austin Marathon in 2017. Participation in at least 20 local and national half- and full marathons, including the 2023 Boston Marathon, has followed.

When her grandmother died in 2021, running in New York became a singular focus for Kayleigh and Sandy. In addition to being one of her fiercest supporters, Kayleigh's grandmother had always wanted to take her to New York to see the city’s lights at Christmastime.

“New York has been her desire, that destination she wanted to go to,” says Sandy. “She wanted to do New York, and she wanted to do it for her grandma.”

As Kayleigh crossed the finish line at the 52nd New York City Marathon, having pushed herself beyond the limits of what, on the surface, would seem reasonable, she had once again unquestionably lived up to her grandmother’s hopes and expectations.

“My grandma always told me, ‘You’re my granddaughter, and you’ve got to run fast. You’ll feel a lot of pain, but you’ve got to push through it.’”

Sandy, having been by Kayleigh’s side throughout her long journey, says that her daughter’s perseverance shows the importance of just living in the moment, even if you are the last to cross that finish line. “It’s okay to be last. You’re doing something that means a lot to you, and you’re showing someone else that probably thought they couldn’t do something that they can do it. It doesn’t matter where you are in the race. This is about proving that dreams have no limits.”

You can support Kayleigh by clicking here and purchasing "It's Cool To Be Me" today.

Discover Tarkett Sports’ Better Tomorrow Program:

We believe in shaping a brighter future through the power of sport and community. By focusing on protecting the future of play, our ‘Better Tomorrow’ represents the charitable spirit of our organization, dedicated to empowering sports and coaches in need through meaningful partnerships and support. Our program is more than just a pledge; it’s an active engagement in uplifting communities, fostering an environment of inclusivity, and nurturing the growth of sportsmanship and talent.

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