Anthony Golden, Chicago Marathon’s first race director, dies at 90

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Anthony “Tony” Golden, race director of the Chicago Marathon for 15 years, died April 24 in his River West home | Provided Photo

It was 50 years ago, and Chicago police officers were searching for the thieves of a horse named “Lady” and her carriage, which had disappeared from outside a Near North Side pub after midnight.

The bandits — Anthony “Tony” Golden and Mike Lind — trotted with “Lady” around the city, eventually stopping at Grant Park so the duo could enjoy a nightcap.

“We went down to Buckingham Fountain, took the horse and buggy up by the side of the stairs, laid back and drank our beer. On our way back, a cabbie says ‘They’re lookin’ for you guys all over town,’” Golden told the Sun-Times in 2003.

Anthony “Tony” Golden, admitted horse thief and first race director of the Chicago Marathon, died April 24 at age 90 in his River West home.

He and his friend were never caught; the horse was left unscathed. And that night, Golden left yet another mark on the city he called home.

“It was a fun, late-night move,” said Tim Golden, one of Tony Golden’s four children. “He saw it as an adventure, not harmful. Just a memory with a friend and a horse.”

Golden was known for his adventurous personality and sharp memory of sports trivia and Chicago history; his friends nicknamed him “Stats.”

He was an informal contributor and evaluator for 30 years for the Chicagoloand Sports Hall of fame, said Charlie Carey, president of the organization.

“He knew every name in the book. High school, college, professional — if we needed some insight when we were trying evaluate someone, he knew. He got people like Ken Panfil and Carl Brettschneider a chance at getting into the hall of fame because he knew them and their stats,” said Carey. (Both men played for the Chicago Cardinals, a National Football League team that played at Comiskey Park before moving to St. Louis and, later Phoenix.)

Golden was a natural athlete and runner for several decades, playing football at Butler University in Indianapolis and running over 42 marathons in Chicago, Boston and New York on several occasions, according to his family and friends.

In 1977, he accepted the voluntary position of executive race director at the first Mayor Daley Marathon, founded and organized by Lee Flaherty, a long-time friend for over four decades.

Golden held the position for the following 15 years, according to Flaherty.

Eleanor Daley (right) on the reviewing stand at the Daley Center Plaza with Mayor Michael Bilandic (from left), his wife, Heather, and marathon organizer Lee Flaherty at the first Mayor Daley Marathon in 1977. Flaherty founded the marathon and asked his l

Eleanor Daley (right) on the reviewing stand at the Daley Center Plaza with Mayor Michael Bilandic (from left), his wife, Heather, and marathon organizer Lee Flaherty at the first Mayor Daley Marathon in 1977. Flaherty founded the marathon and asked his long-time friend Anthony Golden to be its first executive race director. | Sun-Times files

The race, now known as the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, is one of the major marathon races worldwide; last year, a record 44,610 people crossed the finish line.

Golden was a major part of its early success, said Flaherty.

“He really knows the community. It was Chicago’s first marathon of stature, just a start-up at the time. Tony was part of the reason the race we know today became the great success is,” said Flaherty.

Born on the south side of Chicago in 1929 to an Irish family of six, he was raised by a long-time Chicago police officer and his stay-at-home mother.

Golden attended St. Justin Martyr Grammar School and Harper High School, graduating in 1947.

After school, Golden worked in construction, building and remodeling homes for about 30 years before setting up his own promotional business, according to Tim Golden.

Adventure followed Golden and his wife after they moved into their River West home in 1996.

The couple soon discovered drugs being sold from a house just down the block.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. helped get the authorities involved, and the illegal operation was shut down, Golden told the Sun-Times in 2003.

“He jokingly told me: ‘It’s a business decision.’ He was a good businessman. He knew homes and their value. He wanted that neighborhood to be good. That was his vision and yes, not surprisingly, the illegal activities were in the way,” said Flaherty.

Golden is survived by his wife of 54 years, Kathleen; their four children; and one grandchild.

Funeral services were Friday at Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

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