Phil Dumontet has had quite an impact on the running scene. Alongside his wife and business partner, Alexa Squillaro, he built Whole Sol Blend Bar into the fastest-growing small company in the Denver Metro area, according to the Denver Business Journal’s Fast 50. After selling his business he continued his entrepreneurial journey and founded Boulderthon and is also the creator of the nonprofit organization behind Boulderthon, Boulder’s first and only signature marathon with a Downtown Finish, drawing nearly 4000 runners from all 50 states and 15 countries. The race sold out and became Colorado’s largest fall race series in its second year. In 2023, Boulderthon was named one of the Top 5 Best Half Marathons in the United States by Active.
Some of Phil’s notable accomplishments include:
• Named to Forbes 30 Under 30
• Boulder Valley 40 Under 40
• 13-Time Marathoner Ranking Top 20 in Age Group, PR 2:55
• Contributor to The Washington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Insider, Fast Company and Inc. Magazine.
Phil currently lives in Longmont, CO, with his wife Alexa, and is a new and proud father to Dante Philip Dumontet. In his free time, Phil loves to run, bike, hike and ski. And now he answers a few business and running questions from Running Insight.
Tell our readers about your journey as a runner.
I’ve been a runner since I was 11 years old, when I completed my first official New York Road Runners XC race at Van Cortlandt Park. Running was always my go-to, year-round sport, participating in XC, indoor and outdoor track throughout middle school and high school. I went to Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, NJ, which was a school known for its top 10 nationally ranked running program. I went to Boston College for the academics and experience; I did not run competitively, but ran my first marathon when I was a senior there (Boston Marathon of course). From there, I caught the running bug. I have been fortunate enough to participate in 15 marathons around the world, including the Six World Marathon Majors, with a PR of 2:55.
How has running contributed to your life outside of fitness?
Running has given me the confidence to embrace and overcome challenges in all aspects of my life. There is no greater achievement than setting a goal, working tirelessly towards it for four months in a training plan and then nailing it. Running makes me feel most alive and it always reminds me that we are so much stronger and more capable than we think. Just as a 2:55 marathon seemed nearly impossible to me when I started running (my first marathon was 4:15), when you dedicate yourself to a goal and put the work in, running proves anything is possible.
What about your journey as a business owner and how it led to the founding of Boulderthon?
I started Dashed out of Boston College on my bike, in partnership with my brother. This was a food delivery company – offering delivery for restaurants that didn’t offer delivery – before DoorDash & UberEats existed. I did all the deliveries on my Trek bike at first, taking pride that I was doing it faster than anyone else. My entire company was oriented around speed, including manager KPIs and drivers’ bonuses and incentives. I sold Dashed to Grubhub in 2017 and moved out to Boulder to start Whole Sol Blend Bar, with my wife, Alexa.
That’s quite a move. What happened next?
We were familiar with the restaurant space from Dashed and saw an opportunity in the Denver/Boulder market. For such a health-conscious market, there weren’t many healthy, fast-casual juice/smoothie bar options. I knew that Denver/Boulder would be the perfect market for a proof of concept and location density was important to me for our marketing to lift all stores. I set an ambitious goal of five restaurants within three years. We currently operate six Whole Sol’s on the Front Range and have begun the franchising process. The menu is what we eat at home — nutrition-packed, delicious, simple, clean foods.
And how did racing help that transition?
My favorite way to get to know a new city is to run a race there. When we first moved to Boulder, I immediately signed up for BolderBoulder — I love that race series and run it every year. But I couldn’t find a signature marathon. I quickly found out why — many have tried and it seemed that all have failed or given up. I was in it for the long-term from Day One and wasn’t doing it for financial reasons. It came from a place of passion, of ‘let’s bring an amazing marathon experience to the City of Boulder,’ no matter how long it takes to launch.
So how did it all take shape?
I remember organizing my nonprofit for Boulderthon as early as 2017 and started applying for permits in 2018. I did this all in parallel as my wife and built and grew Whole Sol. Eventually, I was able to acquire an existing race, Boulder Backroads, which was a well-respected 19-year-old race with about 400 runners. This was the turning point as once I was able to acquire that race, I had an event date secured. Then, the challenge became revamping the course and bringing it Downtown. This was the birth of Boulderthon.
What were key factors in building Boulderthon to the size it is at such a fast pace?
Two factors were our incredible location and marketing, my passion and strength. First and foremost, location – Boulder – is the number one draw. I can have the best marketing in the world, but if no one wants to visit Boulder, my marketing is pointless. Vice versa, I can have Boulderthon as the Boulder Marathon, but if no one knows that Boulder has a new signature marathon series, how will anyone sign up? Both are necessary.
What’s so special about Boulder?
Boulder has an outstanding reputation as one of the great running meccas, for recreational runners and Olympians alike. It’s an outdoor playground with 300 days of sunshine and endless recreation, dining, shopping and entertainment. I couldn’t believe that for such a running town there was no signature downtown marathon. It sounds obvious now, but when I arrived here in 2017 there was only the Backroads Race that I acquired and trail races in the endurance space. I made it my mission to start the first Downtown Boulder Marathon, to bring a world-class marathon to the streets of Boulder. It took three-plus years to get the race approved, but I knew it would be worth the wait.
How did it go initially?
Fast forward to our first edition in 2021 and that’s where our marketing kicks in. No one knew what Boulderthon was or that Boulder now had a marathon. Effective marketing became key to promote awareness and engage runners. Today, we have a powerful combo of creative, effective marketing to inform runners of our exciting new race series, while putting the stunning backdrop of Boulder at foothills of the Rockies front and center. This year, we’re on track to grow up to 7000 runners, from 1600 runners only three years ago.
What are important steps you take when bringing on sponsors and partners for Boulderthon?
The sponsor and partner recruitment process begins very simply with brands that we respect, use or align with. I look around me — what shoes am I running in, what clothes do I wear, what do I eat, drink, where do I go, what products and services do I use on a daily basis? Once we have that curated list, we begin our outreach and think creatively, about how to make the partnership authentic and provide value to our runners.
Any more examples of that process?
When I created the concept of our Start Village for the first-ever Downtown Start this year, I thought about which company would have strong connections to the restaurants on the Pearl Street Mall, at the Start, to provide amenities to our runners in the Start Village. It quickly became clear to me that the Start Village Presented by Uber Eats was a perfect fit. Through this partnership, we’ve been able to engage locally owned and operated coffee shops to provide coffee to our runners, breakfast burritos to our VIPs, exclusive deals and discounts to all runners and a Restaurant Guide for our visitors.
What are some of your other marketing tactics?
I take a ‘Be Everywhere’ approach. No channel alone is effective enough to solely invest in, but investing in the top five, for example, leads to a fantastic synergy among all five. None of them are groundbreaking — the secret is in the details and deployment. We love digital ads, influencer partnerships, podcasts, in-person activations and events and print.
Any advice to other retailers, race directors or leaders within the endurance space?
Know thy runner! Runners race for the experience and memories. The better the experience, the more likely they are to return. The more amazing memories you can create, the higher-rated your race will be. It all comes down to the experience. Ask yourself, ‘What do you want runners to walk away remembering?’
How do you tell if it’s working?
We found that our renewal/re-registration rate each year has been extremely high, which is our customer base telling us, job well done. I view it as our approval rating.
Any more advice?
If you are just starting out organizing an event, ask yourself, ‘Why would a runner want to run your race?’ Come from an authentic place. There are so many amazing races out there, so it’s important to know your ‘why’ like the back of your hand. For us, we know that the number one reason runners run Boulderthon is that we offer a top-tier race experience with big-city marathon amenities, with the charm and stunning background of experiencing the city of Boulder. We double down on this in all our marketing. What is your theme? Why do runners register? Once you know that, double down and make sure all your marketing reflects. Build a premier runner experience that keeps runners coming back.
And a focus on the basics, of course.
Put first things first. Don’t forget those basics — enough toilets, on-time start, awesome partners and cheer stations.
Anything else you’d like to share about your business and/or running journey?
Support your local races. I always like to say here at Boulderthon, there are three ways you can be involved: you can run, volunteer or cheer (or all three). Marathon days are my favorite days of the year. Nowhere else do you find such a diversity of inspiring stories in one day, running for so many beautiful causes. This is the main reason I started Boulderthon — to bring this marathon experience to the Boulder community.