Race

Concise Bible Dictionary:

One of the Grecian contests used by the apostle to illustrate the Christian race. All ran, but only one received the prize; let each, casting aside every weight and sin, so run as to obtain; not for a fading crown (of laurel, pine, or parsley), but an incorruptible one (1 Cor. 9:24-2524Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. (1 Corinthians 9:24‑25); Heb. 12:11Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1)). This is not a contest in which the unconverted have to strive, with the aim of obtaining salvation; but it is a race the Christian has to run as a matter of experience. Paul said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”—of being with Him in the glory (Phil. 3:1414I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)).

From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

Hebrews 12:11Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1). Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
Running was one of the most popular of the Olympic games. The place prepared for the race was called the stadium because of its length, which was a stadium, or six hundred Greek feet. This was equal to six hundred and twenty-five Roman feet, or six hundred and six and three quarters feet English. See note on John 11:1818Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: (John 11:18) (#809). The word appears in the original of 1 Corinthians 9:2424Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. (1 Corinthians 9:24), where it is translated “race” in our version. The stadium was an oblong area, with a straight wall across one end, where were the entrances, the other end being rounded and entirely closed. Tiers of seats were on either side for the spectators or “witnesses.” The starting place was at the entrance end, and was marked by a square pillar. At the opposite end was the goal, where sat the judge holding in his hand the prize. The eyes of the competitors were fixed on him: “Looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:22Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)). The goal, as well as the starting-place, was marked by a square pillar, and a third was placed midway between the two. The goal is the “mark” referred to in Philippians 3:1414I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14). The competitors, through severe training, had no superfluous flesh, and all unnecessary clothing was put off. Flesh and clothing alike were laid aside as a “weight” which might hinder in the race. The distances run were various. The most common was the space between the starting-point and the goal. Sometimes this was doubled, the race terminating where it began. Sometimes the terms of the race required a still longer distance to be run. Seven, twelve, twenty, and even twenty-four times the length of the stadium were occasionally run. This required severe effort, and was a great tax on the strength. The runners might well be exhorted to “run with patience.”
There are other passages where allusions are made to the game of running. In 1 Timothy 6:1212Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12) Paul says, as rendered in our version, “Fight the good fight of faith,” and in 2 Timothy 4:77I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (2 Timothy 4:7), “I have fought a good fight.” Some commentators understand that, in both these passages, running rather than fighting is designed by the original terms. The idea is one of contest for superiority. The kind of contest seems to be indicated in 2 Timothy 4:77I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (2 Timothy 4:7), where Paul says, “I have finished my course”; that is, “My race is run.” The “course” is also mentioned in Acts 20:2424But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24) and 2 Thessalonians 3:11Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Philippians 3:13-1413Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13‑14), also refers to the race: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Here the course is not yet finished; he has not yet “apprehended” or seized the prize. Not looking behind, he reaches forth, just as the runners inclined their bodies forwardly the better to get over the ground. He presses toward the mark or goal, just as they eagerly put forth their utmost endeavor to get the prize. He is in earnest, and determined to succeed.