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“Are you going to run in that?”

I'm used to being under pressure to win. My formula is to always come prepared. But I wasn't this time.

“Are you going to run in that?”

I was single mom living in London, running international operations for a fast-growing US high-tech company. I had a board presentation on the West Coast and had managed to catch the last transatlantic flight back home to the UK. It was a big day for my five-year-old son. His school was holding its annual sports day and he was really looking forward to having me there.

I landed just in time and sped from the airport to the school grounds—still in the same suit and high heels I had worn to the board presentation the day before. That all of the other mothers were in their fashionable attire would not have been a surprise. I was living in a trendy neighbourhood in Notting Hill and many of these moms took their full-time jobs seriously (and dressed the part).

Upon seeing me, my son jumped into my arms yelling, “Mommy! Mommy! You have to win!”

I’m used to being under pressure to win. My formula is to always come prepared. But I wasn’t this time. It turns out that in England, Sports Day is as much about parents competing as it is about the kids! All the other mothers were dressed to compete. They were in various stretching poses on the track getting ready… and they were serious. I looked to the other mothers, searching for a way out, when one of them pointed at me and said in a posh accent: “Are you going to run in that?!”

The expression on my son’s face didn’t leave much room for doubt. “Yep,” I answered, as I pulled my shoes off and took my place on the starting line.

I won three 100M heats that morning in my bare feet and business suit and came in 2nd overall. But the real win was to see the smile on my son’s face, knowing that whatever the challenge, his mother wouldn’t let him down.

This article was first published on Leanin.org

Copyright 2017 JOANNA SHIELDS