You know that in a race all the runners run but only one wins the prize, don’t you? You must run in such a way that you may be victorious.
1 Corinthians 9:24 (ISV)
Paul uses a well-known fact from real life to illustrate his message. Just like the Corinthians of his time, we too today have an idea of what he meant simply by visualizing the image of the runners on the racetrack.
Although his message reflects a competition between several runners running to win the prize, he nowhere mentions that we Christians are racing against each other. Rather, our race is to fulfill God's purpose in our lives, which is for all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of His Son. It's not a race you can do alone, you need the help of the Holy Spirit to get there. What does this require of us?
Just like Paul, we must learn to discipline our lives. The first foundation of this discipline is to develop an attachment to the word of God in order to study it and obey it. This race, as mentioned above, is not against our brethren in faith, but rather against our sinful nature and the lusts of this world that disqualify us from the grace of God.
Remember that God's grace is a free gift, but it requires that you walk according to his will and obey his word.