St. Matthews Independence Day 5K Returns
Writer / Gavin LaPaille
While St. Matthews residents are accustomed to seeing runners and walkers charge up and down their neighborhood streets, this Fourth of July will bring that intensity to a higher level. The St. Matthews Independence Day 5K is back for 2023, allowing local residents the opportunity to challenge themselves against other competitors and help support the community, all while celebrating the United States of America’s birthday.
With a history dating back to the 1970s, the 5K had been part of the annual St. Matthews Street Festival for a number of years, but was moved to the Fourth of July last year for the first time. Race Director Bill Nowak thinks the change has pushed the race to a higher level.
“When we were looking for another time to have a race, I was looking at the calendar and the Louisville area didn’t really have a July 4 type race,” Nowak says. “A lot of people are off work that day, and I thought it would be a great theme and something the runners can look forward to. It’s going to be July 4 every year from now on.”
The course has been consistent for the race from the beginning, starting and finishing at St. Matthews Baptist Church on Grandview Avenue. The 3.1-mile loop takes runners down Macon Avenue, Prince William Street, Broadfields Drive and other community streets. All runners and walkers are welcomed to participate in the timed event, with overall and age-group awards up for grabs to the fastest participants. Registration starts at $25 and all money raised will go to programs that support and benefit the St Matthews community, including the St. Matthews Area Ministries and St. Matthews Baptist Church.
“There’s getting to be less and less races through communities because it’s difficult to close streets,” Nowak says. “Some of the bigger races are still running through the city but little neighborhood races are going by the wayside. St. Matthews the city has been fantastic to work with. The have a lot of officers on the course and keep everyone safe. The fire department comes out for medical support. It’s a great community event. The kicker is everything goes right back into the community. That, to me, means everything.”
The event will start at 8 a.m., and runners can expect post-race food, a variety of door prizes donated by local establishments, and vendor booths. Back this year is a team contest open to any group of three to five competitors, in addition to a new Fourth of July costume contest. Each registrant also receives a free moisture-wicking tech shirt.
“The last several years, we’ve gotten businesses to donate a lot of food,” Nowak says. “There will be food and refreshments, and there will be door prizes all the runners will be eligible to get. We have a lot of booths set up for people who finish early so they have something to do.”
After being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the race returned in a big way on its new date last year, with 332 runners taking part in the event and raising over $8,000 for the local community. Most of the runners come from the surrounding area, but all are welcomed.
“We expect more and more as people find out about the race,” Nowak says. “We got a tremendous response last year from runners who participated. I know they’re going to be talking about it. I think it’s going to be something runners can look forward to every year.”
Fittingly, Independence Bank became the primary sponsor of the event last year and is back this year, along with other community sponsors. Packet pickup for the event is held at the bank on Shelbyville Road, with those stopping by to get their bib entered into a drawing for a $100 Fleet Feet gift card.
“I went to them and pitched the idea of an Independence Day race sponsored by Independence Bank, and they thought it was a great idea,” Nowak says. “It fit in with their community spirit and what their name and theme is. It was perfect for the race and was a natural fit. I love that they went for it. They were the first ones to step to the plate and say they wanted to be part of it.”
St. Matthews Baptist Church has been involved with the race from the start as a major sponsor, coordinator and host. Many volunteers come from the church and help administer the event, as they strive to provide a fun and well-run race through St. Matthews. The event helps support the church’s “LOVE 40207” campaign that reaches people all over the community with such activities as working in gardens, visiting people who are confined indoors, doing home repairs for the elderly, putting together care packages for frontline workers, making blankets for those in need, doing local park cleanup, and beautifying St. Matthews Elementary.
St. Matthews Area Ministries (St. MAM) is another major beneficiary of the proceeds. They seek to unite the resources and people of area congregations to effectively meet community needs. Through St. MAM, area congregations collaborate and partner with government, schools, businesses and other nonprofits to meet emergency needs, stabilize families in transitional situations, provide a nurturing and healthy environment for children and youths, and offer resources for the benefit of the whole community.
“The proceeds go right back into the community and support programs and services that assist St. Matthews residents,” Nowak says. “The last race, we had over 20 sponsors and local businesses who donated things. To give right back in the community and support it was the icing on the cake for me.”
Moving forward, Nowak wants the event to continue growing and find new ways to raise money for local residents and initiatives, with registrations already flowing in.
“It started with a handful of people, and grew to 50 and then 100,” Nowak says. “We were just short of 400 last year. I’m hopeful for 450 to 500 this year. I think the sky is the limit. I know participation is only going to go up.”
For more information or to register for the St. Matthews Independence Day 5K, check out rivercityraces.com.