© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated
“Even though they are my idols, the only way I will accomplish what they already have is if I
treat them as normal competitors and race them without fear.” – Justyn Knight.
Like Charles Mingus playing third stream jazz in a smoky New York bar, Knight oozes talent.
Just as Matt Hughes effortlessly floats over a barrier in the 3,000-metre steeplechase or Mo Ahmed turns the screws in and heartlessly rips the life out of his competition during the final, stinging, four turns of his 5,000-metre race, Knight is one with the thoroughbreds.
He demonstrated so during his three and three-quarter lap orchestration of high preparation, in a race distance that is won or lost off fine, knife-edge sharpness, to cap a perfectly conducted training cycle.
Without – they really-really hope – reaching down too far into the unholy depths of despair, at least by the time that the bell ringer plays the beautiful and somehow jarring music to sound out the closing verse, the final lap of the race, they roll.
“Don’t worry about a thing…
…Every little things gonna be all right” – Bob Marley.
With 200-metres to go, it is either time to fire up the pipe organ and have its depressing drone cast a pall over the bearers of the death march, or alternatively you are Ahmed or Hughes or Knight, and it may be time to crank out the hip hop; a cruel time signature pacing to the rhythm of the footfalls; on a light-hearted flaying.
Someone stuck in the pack is thinking, do you have any idea what inner turmoil I am suffering through right now? Clearly you don’t. Stop that gawdawful clapping.
The athletes may be asking the proverbial question, is it just a matter of hanging on for dear life or can I take charge and fulfill the athletics prophecy that I have thought about each day since I don’t know when? All those sleepless nights and daydreaming during class, drifting in conversation to the days and ways of training and arriving, right on time. And here we are on the dream’s very precipitous edge.
“[In the 1500m race at nationals] When there was 400 to go I wasn’t thinking to myself wow congrats for being able to hang with these studs,” shared Knight. “The only thing going through my mind was “Win this race”. That being said Nate is extremely talented and it was an honour to race against him. I only hope to be able to have a career in running similar to his.”
These are the humble thoroughbreds, who toil in a modest sport, rolling through the laps seemingly untroubled by the volumes of oxygen that their powerful leg muscles demand. The thoroughbreds don’t so much as fight gravity, they float with it. Each toe-off in the stride propels the athlete forward, they land and then they spring off again; ala antilopinae bovinae.
Knight is one of those thoroughbreds. During the final lap of the 1500-metre race at the 2016 Canadian Track and Field Championships that doubled as the 2016 Rio Olympic Trials – an under-distance event for him – he put the scare of youth into the reliable veteran Nate Brannen and the smooth Charles Philibert-Thiboutot; Knight, finished just ahead of Brannen.
“As for just clipping Brannen, I wouldn’t describe it as being surprised. I have the most respect for him and I am well aware of all of his accomplishments and what he has done for Team Canada all these years,” shared the 20-year-old (as of July 19). “I’ve looked up to guys like him, Mo Ahmed, Cam Levins, and Matt Hughes for a couple of years now.”
Philibert-Thiboutot of Quebec City is smooth like Paul Desmond’s sax in the jazz classic Take Five (or take 3:34.23 – CPT’s pb). He wasn’t going to lose this race. If he would have looked back (never look back), he would have found himself being chased by Knight; a man on a mission with nothing to lose, he didn’t.
“…I do not regret the way my season turned out. It was a great learning experience. I think it was actually a blessing in disguise. I’ve learned how to overcome tough situations and bad races. I’ve grown so much mentally it will only have a positive effect on my performance moving forward.”
Knight, one of the great young ambassadors to the sport of athletics, feels that he is a 5K specialist who can run the 1500m. Others agree.
“I wasn’t surprised actually. He’s been running great this year and I knew he would be there right until the end. He has a very bright future and most likely will wind up being one of Canada’s best 5k/10k runners,” shared Brannen, another ambassador and gravity-defying middle-distance runner, himself a three-time Olympian and five-time IAAF World Championships competitor.
Brannen will be going to Rio.
“…Both Charles and Justin ran great races and I went into the meet knowing they would be major factors, along with a handful of other guys.”
Knight has run 13:26.36 and 3:39.23 in the 5,000-metre and 1500-metre distances this spring for the Syracuse University Orange: The ‘Cuse.
The Olympic standards for the two distances are 13:25.00 and 3:36.20, respectively. Knight indeed has a bright future in athletics; he’s a jazz runner and is destined to flay heartlessly in cruel time signatures over a very long career.