NYC Marathon: Champion backwards runner cheers in Harlem
Right off the Madison Avenue bridge at 138th street in Harlem, a different type of record holder is celebrating with the hundreds of people cheering the New York City Marathon runners and dancing to the music of Arrow’s “Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot.”
Ernest Conner, 66, set the first World Record for running a the marathon backwards, in 1980 and he did it in the New York City Marathon.
A tall, distinguished-looking, athletic man, he wore a brown leather Panama hat and a suede jacket to cheer and celebrate.
“I drove here to celebrate my 30th anniversary of my world record,” said Connor, now of Atlantic City. “I was born and raised in Harlem, so watching these runners getting off the bridge into the neighborhood makes me proud.”
Conner knows what it feels like to get off the Madison Avenue Bridge while running.
“When you come off that Bridge all way to 125th Street, it’s all about spirit, music and people cheering,” he said.
According to Conner, Harlem is a unique piece of real state, and when runners get to the Harlem mile, they get more motivated by the music, the crowd and the chanting.
“I still remember people shouting, ‘Go, Ernest! Don’t give up,’ ” he said.
His first marathon was in 1978, when he finished in three hours and 33 minutes. After that, Conner kept on practicing, running and competing.
But in 1980, representing a Harlem organization called “The Tree of Life,” he set the world record for running backwards.
He completed it in five hours and 11 minutes.
At the time, it was a great accomplishment for him and for Harlem.
“We had air time on TV, and news on The New York Times, The Daily News and on The Post,” he said.
He had advice for aspiring marathoners.
“Don’t look at the 26 miles, look at the next mile,” he said. “If you make past that one, you will make it 26 miles.”