The apostle Paul, when he penned the words above in the mid-1st century, was looking forward to the End of his race. Not only was he referring to the completion, or fulfillment of the Heavenly Vision, I believe that at the same time, he was looking forward to the time when his own personal ministry would cease & he would finally be able to put his earthly struggles to rest!
We each ( individually ) have a race to finish, but the 'the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus' is already won; it was finished in the first century A. D. ( John 19:30, Revelation 21:6 )! The Finish Line that Paul prophesied of was the End that was soon to come in the first century, about 10-15 years after he wrote & though he was looking forward to the time when he would have completed his own personal race, he knew that it was not his winning that would win the prize, but that it was the Revelation of Jesus a the Christ, as the veritable Son of God, that would present, not just him, but humanity in the Messiah, or Christ, with the Prize!
Everyone, to whatever extent, looks forward to the time when their personal journey, their individual ministry, if you will, is completed & they are free to leave the trials & tribulations of this life behind! Many or most Christians, however seem to believe, based on the apostle's yearnings, that the Prize for which he waited expectantly is One that comes only after we pass onto the spiritual realm, or in other words, after our biological life ceases. Although he knew, or expected, that his own race would be completed by the Time the End was Revealed, Paul knew that the End was coming no matter whether he was still alive or not!
When the Prize was finally Revealed in the first century, it was no coincidence that the apostle Paul had already passed from this earthly ( material ) realm, but the it was not so much the end of his physical existence that the apostle looked forward to, it was the Enduring Presence of the Creator God with His Covenant People! The apostle Paul's race was the one that, when finally completed, would reveal this Prize. Biblical Eschatology shows us that, from the beginning, this race was being run & it was this race which Paul was running.
As Ministers of Reconciliation, we are each ( individually ) faced with our own race to run; some might call it a journey & that it is! We are placed on this earth to continue, to Fulfill the Work of the Christ, Jesus the Messiah. At the end of this race, we will receive a reward of sorts; we will be Pure Spirit; free of the encumbrances of this mortal life & we will be able to lay to rest the physical strains that pull upon this biological body. However, as we saw earlier, this is not the Prize was not the One for which Paul strained & was constrained; he looked forward to attaining, not just individually, but as a member of the Body of Christ, the Son of the Creator God, 'the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus' the Saving Presence of the Creator God when He descended in Judgment on the Temple & Jerusalem in AD66-70!
We each have our own race to finish, our own end to attain! Our reward will be according to how we run that race. We cannot say for certain to what extent we will enjoy the fruits of our labors after we have passed from this life, but we can say for certain that the Prize for which Paul waited in earnest expectation came soon after the end of his personal ministry. The Prize for which he yearned was not just the blessed hope of a cessation of his personal struggles, his own individual pain & suffering; the Prize which the apostle Paul sought & wrought was nothing but the True Temple, that made of 'living stones' ( I Peter 2:5 ). This New Temple is made up of the People of the Creator God & through the Blood of the Covenant, though It was fulfilled in the first century, It is still Under Construction & is expanding to fill the whole earth!
Charles Haddon Shank