The Man behind the mile

A kind and gentle man whose large frame housed a very huge heart; Irv Goldstein was a friend to all. He best exemplified the sense of family that characterized the earliest years of the Manitoba Marathon. Irv’s Mile is named for him and has graced the Marathon’s final mile since his passing on January 13, 1995. Some know why this mile is special; others now deserve to know. In this special tribute loving memories are shared by two former race directors, Allan Finkel and Shirley Lumb, by Irv’s special nephew Jeff Goldstein, and good friend Nancy Gajdosik, with photo treasures from dear friend Bunty Anderson.

Irv was a selfless man respected by his ability to help whatever the challenge. He was the predecessor to Dr. Laura, except he did this totally on the quiet, not to draw attention to himself. Any attempt to delve into the thorn in his side, he would craftily reverse, and start talking about you, not him.

Over the years, Irv resolved countless problems by creating invaluable relationships with (among many others):

  • Armed Forces who provided tents for medical, leading to the start of an awesome medical team
  • Winnipeg Police Services who created the first security team and set the groundwork for a great relationship with the city
  • suppliers throughout the city who provided crazy equipment such as livestock feeding troughs for holding water along the course, scaffolding to create start and finish lines, foam to make thousands and thousands of sponges (which he arranged cleaning and storage for)

Irv was a member of the Marathon Board, the Foundation and the Technical Team at different times. He was the devil’s advocate making sure all aspects of the Marathon and its mission were considered when decisions were made. He asked hard questions and made sure thoughtful discussion took place before a plan was made and was always the one to call when a challenge arose, always the one who was instrumental in solving any problem. Like our guru, we invariably turned to him.

Irv found a spiritual home within the Manitoba Marathon community. He cared deeply not only about the race but what it stood for: a mass participation event, an internationally recognized marathon with a special partnership with the Association for Community Living… an event that required huge resources (human and equipment), but which gave back so much more to the community.

Irv Goldstein represented the conscience of the Manitoba Marathon. Allan Finkel remembers Irv’s invitations that they meet once a year for lunch. He would ask how things were going, what his thoughts were about the future of the event and how he was doing. Then he would nod. The Marathon was going through huge changes and challenges at that time. By nature curious, Irv did not have pre-conceived notions of where or how the Marathon would evolve, but was always open-minded. If Allan’s thoughts had a sense of ‘rightness’ to him, that triggered his treasured nod. “With those nods, I knew that the Marathon would be okay…and so would I,” shared Allan. The Manitoba Marathon changed enormously in those days, and Irv was happy to be along for the ride.

Despite having health issues, Irv made it clear through his actions and in his engagement that the Manitoba Marathon helped him be the very best he could be. He shared his love and his passion with countless others who he drew into the orbit of the Manitoba Marathon. Like him, others had their issues yet found a happy home within the Marathon family.

Irv’s death 25 years ago left a huge void for everyone in the Manitoba Marathon. Yet, it seemed natural that even with him gone he was called on to ‘solve this one’. Sometimes it felt eerie how solutions to problems would reveal themselves. On more than one occasion, flooding within the city had caused issues along the race course. The team would say, “Irv, this one’s up to you,” and not surprisingly the solution would seem to appear.

One year shortly after his death,  a runner’s family contacted the office at the end of race day to say their family member, who was also named Irv, was thrilled that someone put up ‘Irv’s Mile’ signs just for him. He had found himself really struggling to finish and when he got to that last mile those signs gave him the boost to finish. Our Irv would have loved that.

His commitment to all parts of the Manitoba Marathon overflowed to both his family and friends: several of them continued to be involved for many years after his passing and some are still involved today.

A rich man; not in monetary value but in love, kindness and desire to help anyone in need, Irv’s thoughtfulness, support and love of people created the spirit that to this day embodies the Manitoba Marathon.

Most (and best) of all, he inspired and taught us what volunteerism is all about: not the reluctant commitment to mundane tasks but rather, a calling. It hardly seems possible a quarter century has passed since Irv died as he remains alive in the hearts and memories of everyone blessed to have known and worked alongside him, and to have called him friend. We are all better for the footprint he left on the Manitoba Marathon and in our hearts. As our runners forever more pass through Irv’s mile, we give a salute to a wonderful man who went the distance and will never be forgotten.

United Way Winnipeg