I set myself a short essay title and competed in my writing against AI

Alexei Sorokin
7 min readDec 2, 2023

The prompt is this: write a short story about a runner collapsing near the marathon finish line. You’re one of the runners, and you observe another runner collapsing.

My story:

The experience was familiar: discerning the red numbers on the clock at the finish line. Are they always red? I think so. During my previous races, the digital clock was always red. But it never becomes less exuberant, this experience of seeing the finish line and adding another time to your book of racing results. The best thing about the final stretch is that you know you’re guaranteed to finish. The fear of dropping out or a collapse of some sort is gone. So you add the speed, overcoming the almost unbearable pain in your legs. You are also more receptive to the cheers of the crowd. You’re a finisher. You’re truly powerful in their eyes. You‘ve just achieved something that they haven’t.

But suddenly, something felt different. My focus was still on the finish line — the clock and the truss gate. But there was something different about the noise and the motion. Something concerning. The cheering changed its joyful tone. Someone screamed, “Help!”.

Slowing down and being curious was not an option, so I continued my final sprint to the finish line, aware of something unpleasant happening yet fearful of disrupting my race.

Taking my final strides toward the finish, I realized what happened: the runner before me collapsed. I remembered him — the short guy wearing bright green Nike Alphaflys and a dotted red sleeveless shirt. We ran alongside each other for a long time before he sped up in the final couple of miles.

He lay motionless on the ground a couple of meters from the finish bar. Was he motionless? His body — yes. But I couldn't see his face. Several people kneeled over him.

I crossed the finish line, noticing how the announcer stayed silent about my finish. Taking my first heavy steps away from the race, I looked back, my joy deflated from the incident I had just observed. The crowd around the collapsed runner got bigger.

Here’s the output from ChatGPT:

The rhythmic pattern of sneakers on pavement echoed through the city streets as the marathon neared its climax. The finish line loomed ahead, an emblem of triumph and exhaustion. I pushed myself forward, every step fueled by the exhilaration…

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Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day. https://runningwritingliving.substack.com/