Bob Shank of the Masters Program put it beautifully in a message forwarded to me by a friend...
Every time I repeat the marathon experience, I'm reminded of Paul's use of the runner's event to describe - in metaphor - the serious Christian's pursuit of God's purposes in their life: "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. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1Corinthians 9:24-27.)
The runner's challenge found its way into the letter to the Hebrews (which I believe was written by Paul, as well) when he said: "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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3.)
Every finisher in Minneapolis - and, Chicago - was a winner. Why? We all knew that a Kenyan would be in the field, heading home with the gold. Everyone else was there to run their race, with their own mission, opposed by everything around them. Sounds like a good metaphor for life - lived on with an eternal horizon - in often unfavorable conditions.