Bowerman TC’s latest premier signing: Can Justyn Knight return to the top of North American distance running?
Three NCAA titles, 11 ACC titles, two World Championships finals, 7th in an Olympic final, and a 12:51 5k, all by the age of 25. You’d be forgiven for forgetting the extensive resume of distance athlete Justyn Knight. After a prolific collegiate career at Syracuse, Knight turned pro in 2018 with Reebok’s Boston Track Club. After a good start to his career with a victory at the Millrose Games 3k, Knight has struggled to keep healthy. For the past two years, the Canadian has been sidelined with a frustrating injury that has kept him completely out of competition right as he looked to be entering his prime.
“I’m not going to downplay it. It was very difficult. I had moments where I felt like I was on top of the world, where I was just getting over the hump - and then I had my moments where I felt like I got knocked down again”, says Knight, “But I think that’s just what comes with being injured. In a way, it’s weird. I want to say I’m thankful for being injured…I have learned a lot about myself and about running through my injury that I’m not sure I would’ve necessarily learned if I wasn’t injured.”
Despite having been pro for over five years, Knight still knows that he has a lot to learn in comparison to his competition. Many of the world class athletes that Knight has faced started running when they were just six, seven, eight years old, whereas Knight started running in his sophomore year of high school as a way of getting extra credit for gym class.
“I feel like the biggest room in the world is the room to grow. I’ve always been the type of person where I think I have stuff to learn, even [during] my time in Syracuse. I learned a lot my freshman year where there were clearly a lot of people that were better than me,” says Knight, “I’ve always been the type of person to ask for guidance from anybody…I think that you can learn from anybody.”
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Knight’s training system has vastly changed from the years before his injury. Adding in new aspects such as a revamped strength training schedule and training at altitude for the first time. The goal for Knight is the same as many of the world’s best 5k athletes: standing on the Paris 2024 podium.
While his training program has changed, check out a day in the life of Justyn Knight from a year ago.
“I’m very pleased with where I stand right now. I’m in a great position to build a base and get back to training as per usual. As for what it’s going to take for me to get on the podium, a couple of things. I’ve never ran at altitude…I've heard that it has a huge impact on your training and I think that's something I'm very excited for,” says Knight, “Also, starting strength and conditioning. That's something that I really kind of started since I got injured. I never used to really do strength and conditioning before, like actually lifting weights. We used to do core and core plays a big role too, but I am very much looking forward to strengthening all the areas of my body.”
With the World Championships having just concluded in Budapest, Knight has used the event as further fuel to the fire in preparation for the future and the prospect of showing out at the 2024 Olympics. “I know I’m capable of getting a medal, it’s just like, what am I going to change in my program to make sure I get there?”
“It was time for me to make the next step in my career. When I was thinking about a team that I wanted to go to, I wanted to surround myself with guys that are going to push me to be better, guys that I’ve competed against and that I’ve raced against,” says Knight. “When I look at Jerry’s team…every time they go to World Champs or the Olympics…they’ve been very consistent.”
Knight will be training alongside some familiar faces with former college rivals Grant Fisher and Sean McGorty (both Stanford graduates) being a part of Schumacher’s outfit as well as fellow Canadian and Olympic silver medalist Moh Ahmed (Wisconsin).
“I’ve known Sean for a long time. I think the first time I raced him…it was at Pan Am cross country. [He] and Grant were some who I had to battle against at university very often,” says Knight. “They’ll get to see what makes me great and I get to see what makes them great and I think hopefully, I can bring something to the table that might elevate their game and I know that they're going to bring stuff to the table that elevates me.”
We wish Justyn all the success with his elevation - at elevation, with his training regimen, and - fingers crossed - up the podium on the world stage.
Don't like reading? Check out the full interview with Justyn below!
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