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Sprint to the Finish Line

Around ten years ago, a friend of mine bet me that he could run a mile faster than I could. We each had a month or two to train, and then we met at the high school track near my old house. He ran first, and did the mile in seven and a half minutes. That was actually faster than I'd run a mile before.

What would my strategy be? Well, the oval track was a fourth of a mile long. I figured that I'd run my usual pace for the first three laps, and then for that last lap, I would just murder myself on the pavement. May as will give it everything I've got, since there's nothing after the finish line.

When I hit he finish line, I had to grab the bleachers to avoid falling down. My legs were shaking, my head was pounding, and I was gasping for breath. I had won, running a 6:59, my fastest mile ever.

A few nights ago it was eleven pm, and my non-negotiable computer-off time of midnight was drawing close. I'd had an amazingly productive day, and the thought crossed my mind that I'd already gotten enough done during the day, and could afford to take a break for the last hour.

Fear of defeat

On minimalift

When I was a young boy, I observed a curious phenomenon. At some point in our childhood, my little sister decided she didn’t like playing competitive games any more. If luck was involved, like a board game where you roll dice, that was fine. If there was a heavy skill element involved, she would only play if we were evenly matched. The only exception to this rule I could find was Super Mario Kart, where I went easy on her because we both enjoyed the game so much.

Everything else was out though - any game of skill or sporting activity. I had loads of two-player computer games and no one to play with most of the time. It was frustrating, and as a child the only reason I could think of to explain her behaviour was her gender. Sometimes I called her boring, and told her I wished I had a brother instead - what awful behaviour! This never bothered her. Boys were/are smelly, apparently.

So, I played lots of computer games alone. Some of them I got really good at. In university, I live with four other blokes, one of whom I’d known since a very early age. Playing computer games daily was standard practice, and the competition could get pretty heated. The four-player football games had an element of randomness in them, and we all enjoyed those because they provided the most controversy.

When it came to one-on-one games, such as Street Fighter, I noticed a familiar pattern with my close friend. When the game was new and we were all learning, he’d play as much as everyone else. Being compulsive, at some point I’d put in more hours practice, understand the concepts better, and soon enough my wins would become consistent. As soon as he felt he no longer had a snowballs chance of beating me, he’d drop the game like a stone. This would happen even if it was a game he owned, no matter how much he appeared to be enjoying it prior.

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