Craig Stanke, teaching me even to this day

For years I fooled myself, lied to myself, that Craig Stanke and I had a special, unique relationship.

Well, don't get me wrong. It was special. Almost every relationship he's ever had, near as I can tell, was special. But what we had wasn't unique, and I thought it was -- and that discovery doesn't make me sad.

It is uplifting, inspiring, something good to hold onto today as people like me -- and apparently there are a whole lot of people like me -- try to process the tragedy that was Craig Stanke going to bed on Monday night and not waking up on Tuesday morning.

Stanke, the deputy sports editor at, died in his sleep. He was 56, and a healthy 56. He had been running (again, as he had done much earlier in his life) for years, and he was getting faster as he was getting older. He was routinely finishing among the top runners in his age group in races, including a Memorial Day 5K when he ran a 22:41, which is barely more than a 7-minute pace. That's moving at any age, especially on a South Florida day when the temperature is in the 80s and the humidity close to 90 percent. I know those weather figures from Monday because Stanke told me afterward, because we always talked about his races.

We always talked about everything. I thought that made me somewhat unique -- I mean, how many people can a guy talk so freely with? -- but the 24 hours since Stanke died has shown me I wasn't unique at all.

Which means Stanke was even more incredible than I thought he was. And I thought he was pretty incredible. This sort of ranking may seem gauche, but it's what I have: Outside of family members, Stanke was one of my five favorite people in the world. And he wasn't fifth. Or fourth. Or third ...

I loved the man, and I loved him without knowing how incredibly special he was. It wasn't just me that he gave so freely of his time. It was anyone who asked. In the last 24 hours, I've seen message boards and Facebook posts devoted to Stanke, and I've received emails from at least 10 people, and all were filled with the same stuff:

I used to email Stanke questions about writing or my career or how to work with my boss, and he always emailed back. We'd talk every week ...

Talking to all those people, how did he find the time to do his job? To run? To eat?

To talk to me?

Stanke gave and he gave and he gave. I think all of us who received, I think we all knew he was a special man.

But I don't think we had any idea. Maybe now we'll understand better the man -- and be inspired to give to others as Craig Stanke gave to us.

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