Thomas Friedman in his book, “The World Is Flat” writes about a wall hanging which says:

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.

It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning a lion wakes up.

It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.

When the sun comes up, you better start running.”

In this metaphor, young people are reduced to the level of sub human beings - animals.  A young man could be like lion that is in search of a victim-feast  or like gazelle which could be the victim.  The whole purpose of running is to survive, lion to survive by finding food; gazelle to survive by escaping from being killed.  Is life really a purposeless race for survival?  
Life is like a race

Paul uses the metaphor of an athlete running to get a prize for Christian life.  An athlete has to concentrate, spend all energy, put in all efforts to compete in the race.  It requires steady and intense progress.  Distraction should not deviate the athlete.  An athlete should be able to keep his mind cool in times of stress.  Double minded people cannot run the race and win.  The winner is temperate in all things – rigid self control.  That means to abstain from various legitimate aspects in life.  She/he cannot eat all food, dress like others while running the race.  Runner has to be disciplined in all areas of life.  Even when the athlete is not running, s/he should be cautious.  

Many unsinful things are "weights" simply because they are so time- and mind-consuming. Because we do not want to fail in accomplishing the highest purposes for which we were called, we must run light to endure the length of our course successfully. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
Run in the track allotted for each one

Each athlete is allotted a track to run.  If an athlete changes the track, s/he is disqualified.  God has ordained a path for each one of us.  That path is good and perfect.  Lord Jesus Christ said, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)  Each disciple of Lord Jesus Christ should bear the cross and follow Him.  The cross is custom-designed to help the disciple to grow in faith, mature and become worthy of the heavenly calling.
Run with a purpose

Athletes who run do with definite purpose.  The purpose could be varied.  For some, it could be personal satisfaction.  To be famous in the world could be some people’s purpose.  To bring glory and honour to their nation could motivate some.

In the race of life, the purpose is very clear.  It is to bring glory to God.  The purpose is to make eternal difference in personal life and in the lives of people around us.  The purpose of life is beyond this life span of earthly life.  “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.” (I Cor 9:26)
Run to win

In the race all runners has the desire to win.  “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (I Cor 9:24)   But all do not win.  In the race as Christian, God has planned a course, and if we finish the course, we win the race.
Run and do not imitate the spectators

The athletes cannot envy the spectators, for they are of different category.  An athlete cannot enter the arena at any time, but a spectator can.  When an athlete is in action, he has to follow the dress code, but a spectator could wear any dress.  An athlete cannot eat whenever and whatever s/he likes; but a spectator could any food at any time.  Preparation and rigorous training are essential for an athlete, while it is not needed for a spectator.

Following Lord Jesus Christ as a disciple is like a race.  This race is not a sprint or short distance race.  It is marathon, which is a long distance race.  The norms and rules are different.  The skills needed are also different.  All Christians are called to run with focus, concentration and discipline the marathon race to bring Glory to His name and receive the prize.  

Dr. J.N. Manokaran