On Thursday, June 20, 2019, we had the chance to talk to Justyn Knight, one of the best up and coming track athletes in Canada - and the world. Justyn recently ran 13:09 for 5,000m in Rome. That time puts him comfortably under the qualifying time for both this year’s World Championships and next year’s Olympic Games. The Syracuse standout turned Reebok professional had a lot of interesting stuff to talk about in our conversation, starting with how he ended up becoming a runner in the first place.
Justyn Knight does not come from a family of runners, and he did not start running at a young age. It was not until he was in 10th grade that the basketball and volleyball player discovered his talent for running. Justyn went to a private high school known for its sports, and Justyn was no slouch when it came to athletics. When Justyn realized he was getting a 70% in gym class, he was left scratching his head. He was scoring more points in basketball and destroying everyone else in volleyball, so he asked the teacher why he wasn’t doing well in class. It turned out that despite Justyn’s athletic talents, he was not putting in 100% effort every class. His teacher told him that he could boost his grade by going all-in on the next unit: running. At the end of the running unit the school held and annual 5k race, and not only did Justyn win, he broke the school record. The track coach did not believe that Justyn could have done this without training, but Justyn joined the team the following year and the rest is history.
One of the coolest parts of Justyn’s career is that he now gets to race and is friends with a lot of the athletes he looked up to when he was starting to run in high school. Moh Ahmed is not only one of Justyn’s friends now, but he is one of his biggest competitors. Ahmed, who runs for the Bowerman Track Club, ran 12:58 - a Canadian record - in the same race that Justyn ran 13:09 in. Cam Levins has also been a big inspiration to Justyn, along with Matt Hughes. Justyn said,
“One time in high school I was doing a workout alone at the University of Toronto indoor track, and it went terribly. Matt Hughes happened to be there too, and he assured me that one bad workout is normal and that I could bounce back from it.”
Justyn said that it was this kind of positivity that helped him grow his love for running. His idols were easy to talk to and responded to his messages on social media, which helped form the relationships he has with them today.
Anyone who follows Justyn on social media will have seen that he is a huge Toronto Raptors fan. This comes as no surprise due to Justyn’s basketball background. Justyn was in Virginia when the Raptors won the NBA title, but he immediately booked tickets to fly home for the parade when they clinched it. Justyn described the entire experience as being surreal. When he was at the parade, he was only feet away from Drake, who he is also a huge fan of. A thought in the back of Justyn’s mind is that he hopes one day Drake will drop his name in a song - that’s when he will know he has made it big time.
Going off the Canadian culture side of things, Justyn is a fan of all-dressed chips (just like Erin Teschuk, who we also interviewed). He also likes Tim Hortons (unlike Erin), although their coffee may have gone downhill recently. One thing that Justyn likes in the U.S. is Chick-Fil-A, and he said he may have had a little too much of it during his indoor season (we won’t tell his coach).
If Justyn was not a professional runner, he says he would be an NBA player. However, in the world we live in, Justyn is not 6’5 and his jump shot could use some work. In reality, he says he would pursue a law degree if he was not running due to the many different avenues that he could take that down. Justyn would also think about becoming a sports agent. We asked Justyn if the marathon may be in his future, and he said he tries not to think about that, at least not yet. He believes he will probably run one someday, though.
Our conversation with Justyn was a lot of fun, and we look forward to seeing what he can do at the upcoming World Championships and Olympics!