WINDSOR — Her name is Samantha and she is a sixth-grader at Windsor Middle School and on this day she is sitting in Bob Shebest's math class.
"Samantha," begins Shebest, "you have been way out in front of everyone all year. But now people are starting to catch up to you. Re-apply yourself. Focus. Stay ahead. Stay in front."
Samantha will roll her eyes, as everyone sooner or later does in any math class taught by Shebest.
"Oh, here we go again, the running thing," Samantha will say. "Why is it always about the running?"
Samantha will grin. Her classmates will grin. Shebest will grin. They know the drill. They know the metaphor. They know Shebest, 39, is a runner of significance.
He once completed the Boston Marathon in 2 hours and 39 minutes. He has done more than 50 marathons. He will run this Saturday in the pre-eminent 50-mile race in America, the Lake Sonoma 50. He is an endurance coach as well, and will have two runners in next Monday's Boston Marathon.
What most of his students probably don't know but will not be surprised to learn: Parents have called Shebest to thank him for using the running metaphor in class, as it has made it easier for their child to grasp responsibility and urgency in their class work. It is not an idle, throwaway expression for Shebest that serves only the moment.
"When I run, I'm recovering from teaching," Shebest said. "When I teach, I am recovering from running."
It is logistical suicide to lump all endurance runners together as obsessive compulsives in search of pain and suffering. Truth to tell, they all are snowflakes, each different, and Shebest makes no attempt to hide his individuality.
"Beer is good." Those are the very first words on Shebest's blog. The very first words.