Meet a cover girl who is making history.
Kiley Lyall will grace the front of the January/February 2016 issue of Women’s Running, becoming the first runner with autism to appear on the cover of a national fitness magazine.
The 24-year-old from suburban Chicago won the Women’s Running Cover Runner Contest after sharing how exercise helps her cope with her health problems, including mild cerebral palsy and epilepsy, which may soon require her to undergo brain surgery.
“Running has literally helped my brain become healthier!” Lyall wrote in her winning entry.
“My autism doesn’t take over my days anymore, and although my lifelong seizures have recently become life threatening, when I run, it relieves so much stress on my brain, allowing me to function much better through most days!”
When contestants were asked to pick three words that best described them, Lyall chose “sweet, determined and successful.”
More than 10,000 people voted in the cover model contest, choosing Lyall over seven other finalists.
Last month, she and her family flew to California for the big photo shoot. The final cover photo shows the young woman beaming after a run on a sunny trail in San Diego.
“We’re so passionate about this cover and the opportunity to share Kiley’s story of determination,” said Jessica Sebor, Women’s Running editor‐in-chief.
Lyall started running at 8 and recently finished her second Chicago Half Marathon, the magazine said.
There’ve been some tense moments along the way, including last year when Lyall suffered two seizures while running her first half marathon. Determined to keep going, she finished the race without any more issues.
Running has improved Kiley’s speech and language, and boosted her confidence and energy level, her parents told the magazine.
"I hope this cover opens doors for others that are limited,” Kiley’s mom, Kathleen Lyall, said.
“Most people would say it's been a really crummy day, so I'm not going to run today, but Kiley stays motivated to grab those shoes, so there is something about running that she absolutely loves."
Women’s Running magazine with Lyall on the cover goes on sale on Dec. 22.