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to behave as if one were going to fail. The mayor was running scared, but won anyway. When we lost that big contract, everyone in the office was running scared. We thought we'd be fired.
run scared(mainly American)
to be worried that you are going to be defeated (usually in continuous tenses) There are rumours that the Democrats are running scared after recent opinion polls showed their rivals to be way out in front.
Become intimidated or frightened. For example, The polls don't look too good for our candidate and he's running scared, or The shrinking market has many businesses running scared. [Mid-1900s]
in. to act panicked. Don’t panic. There is no reason to run scared.