The Isthmian Games were held near Corinth once every 2 years to honor Poseidon, the mythological god of the sea. The Isthmian Games were considered second only to the Olympic Games, held every 4 years.
The Isthmian games included contests such as equestrian, gymnastics, music, poetry, wrestling, boxing, running, and chariot racing. The winner was given a wreath of pine leaves, remission of taxes, fame, and perhaps a victory ode.
According to historical accounts, the Isthmian Games were held in 51 AD, when Paul was living in Corinth. Paul later used the games to deliver a spiritual metaphor to the Corinthian church about how to live the Christian life with self-discipline, an ultimate goal, and for an eternal reward in heaven.=
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 someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27)