2015 was the second straight year that I have been a part of the elite field at the Mountain to Fountain 15K. I believe this is the fifth year of the race, and it has made fantastic progress over the last few years. I will start by saying that the Mountain to Fountain 15K is an extremely classy, well organized, all-around awesome race.
There, now if you have no more time to read the rest of this review, you at least know that you should definitely give the Mountain to Fountain 15K a try.
I will also explain a new rating system I will be implementing for this review. I will grade 6 different criteria; organization, pre-race staging, course, and post-race food/festivities, swag, and general feel of the race. I will give each category a rating between 1 and 5, 1 being the worst, 5 being the best. I will then average the grades and give the race an overall grade. This will be the standard we use to do all of our race reviews from this point forward. I will refer to it as the the Go Race Rating System, or GRRS
Mountain to Fountain 15K Overall GRRS grade: 4.67/5
We would also like to encourage anyone else who has ever run the Mountain to Fountain 15K to send their GRRS grades for the race to John@runnersonthego.com. You may include your grades for all of the criteria, or just the overall grade. You can also include a short description of your experience if you would like. Please include the name you would like to be associated with your grade as we will include it in the review on our website when we receive it.
Organization – GRSS Grade: 5/5
I have run the Mountain to fountain 15K two years in a row and I have not seen a single flaw in the organization. In fact, last year, I tested them (not on purpose) by putting my bag into the wrong vehicle at the starting line. Apparently, I put into someone’s personal vehicle that was over by the elite staging area. Needless to say it wasn’t at the finish line. I informed someone from the race and he set to work. I was unhappy with the race organization for about an hour until the person I spoke to returned to the elite staging area with my bag informing me that I had put it into the wrong vehicle. Apparently, he had been hunting it down, tirelessly, for the past hour.
This is the type of attitude I have seen from the Mountain to Fountain 15K race organization. They are extremely organized, and will go out of their way to make sure their participants have the best experience possible. They even send an e-mail after the race asking for feedback so that they can improve.
Pre-race Staging – GRSS Grade: 4/5
The Mountain to Fountain 15K is a point-to-point race, meaning that participants have to take a bus to the starting line. This makes the pre-race staging exponentially more complicated for the race organizers. Perhaps speaking to their level of organization though, it all goes off without a hitch. There are multiple busses that participants can take to the start line. At the start line there is a fireplace where folks can stay warm (although in Phoenix, it is pretty comfortable at 7:00 am in March.)
The only thing that the pre-race staging gets knocked for is a slight lack of porta-potties. I think the race has experienced year-over-year growth, and it has been hard for them to judge how many porta-potties they will need at the starting line. My advice to any race is to estimate how many porta-potties you will need, double it, and that still probably isn’t enough.
That being said, the Mountain to Fountain 15K has a separate bathroom for elite athletes. That is obviously good for the elites, but it is good for the other runners as well. I know that before a race. The elites generally have a pre-race routine that they are trying to stick to. I know I have been suspicious in the past that people around me in a bathroom line can sense my frustration at waiting for a bathroom. This way the elites can do their thing and the other folks don’t have to worry about them coming back to the bathroom 3 times and doing weird stretches and warm up exercises in line.
Course – GRSS Grade: 5/5
In my opinion, a course grade is more about accuracy, surface, course marking, aid on the course and full disclosure than how flat or hilly the course is. The reason for this is that there is too much subjectivity in grading a course based on its hills, or how fast it is.
The Mountain to Fountain 15K has a link to an accurate course map, with an elevation profile, on their website. The road surface is what you would expect. The course is well marked and there are volunteers at every turn to tell you where to go. There are also plenty of aid stations (every two miles if memory serves) with water and Gatorade and plenty of encouraging volunteers.
Perhaps most importantly, my watch beeped, informing me of my mile split within feet of the mile markers on the course. When I stopped my watch at the finish line, it was at 9.38 miles, almost exactly 15K. Very good, considering that, because of course certification standards there is always some variance between the race distance and what runners actually run.
Post-race food/festivities – GRSS Grade: 5/5
The post-race food and festivities is where the Mountain to Fountain 15K really sets itself apart from other, good, well organized races. I crossed the finish line to a variety of water, Gatorade, potato chips, goldfish crackers, Oreo cookies, rolls, bananas, and most of all . . . BEER. I am not a drinker myself, but there is plenty of beer to be had at the finish line, and I know a lot of people enjoy that. The Mountain to Fountain 15K has secured Four Peaks Brewing Company as a sponsor for the past few years. Not only do they provide plenty of beer for the participants, but they also provide a lot of beer as part of the awards ceremony.
Awards ceremonies at races are usually pretty boring . . . The Mountain to Fountain 15K award ceremony is not. I would highly recommend sticking around for it. This race has a team competition in various divisions, the winning teams get, you guessed it, beer. At some point somebody constructed an old fashioned scale. The winning team selects a member to sit on one side of the scale while race volunteers pile up cases of beer on the other side. Once the scale is balanced, the winning team takes home that team members’ weight in beer.
Swag – GRSS Grade: 4/5
The Mountain to Fountain 15k has a pretty good looking logo, which means that they have a pretty good looking race shirt. The other thing I like is that each race packet is comes in a drawstring bag instead of a plastic bag. I personally have quite a few drawstring bags, but I know that they are very popular, and it is nice to get something practically useful from a race. The only reason this race gets knocked in the swag department is because, to my knowledge, they do not give finisher medals. I don’t mind that they don’t do finisher medals, but I know a lot of people like them.
I want to emphasize that this might not actually be the case. I was in the elite field, and they may not give out medals to people in the elite field as there is prize money. If this is the case, I will certainly amend this review.
General Feel – GRSS Grade: 5/5
The general feel of the Mountain to Fountain 15K is very unique. I have been to a lot of small races with a personal, “everyone knows each other” feel, because everyone does know each other. I have also been to a lot of races with a big race feel. The mountain to fountain 15K feels like a big race in the sense that there are road closures, police, and lots of aid stations on the course, there is a large post-race party, and there are quite a few people. However, it also has a personal feel. The race organizers generally care about running, and their racers. They are all avid runners themselves, and they truly desire to put on an event that promotes health and fitness.
John Coyle is a recent Graduate of Weber State University where he ran Cross Country and Track. He now runs semi-professionally. He is the Marketing Director for RunnersOnTheGo.com and loves to run and write about running.