Anne Mahlum is Giving Everyone a Run for Their Money
By Meredith Simmons
She’s founded a non-profit and started a fitness business that has expanded to 41 locations across the United States. And [solidcore] founder Anne Mahlum isn’t done achieving: she’s planning on running a marathon next month. In Antarctica.
The First Steps
Running has long been a part of Anne’s life—she first started as a teenager to process and deal with her father’s addictions and her parents' subsequent divorce. It was there for her in 2007, when she found herself doubting her life’s purpose and what she was meant to do—the one thing she knew for certain was that she was a runner. Then, one morning in the summer of 2007, a morning run in Philadelphia sparked an idea.
Anne didn’t live that far from a homeless shelter, and one morning, she waved to the men sitting outside of the shelter. After several runs like this, she realized she could do more and wondered what would happen if she invited people from the homeless shelter to run with her. “I called the shelter director and told them my idea, and he was not too keen on it and just didn't think anybody would be interested. But one of my greatest talents and skill sets is being able to badger somebody to the point of being persuasive but not annoying.”
Eventually, the director agreed, nine men signed on to run with Anne, and on July 3, 2007, Back on My Feet was born.
Taking the Next Step
Anne began utilizing her media contacts and soon was fielding requests from people around the city asking to join her runs. The organization grew, and now can be found in major cities across the United States.
Anne had found her purpose—she was empowering people to change their lives through running. “This is so much more than a running club,” she remembers thinking. “I bought into it 100%. I was like this is what I’m doing with my life and I’m quitting my job. It was the first moment in my life that I knew I had to trust my own gut.”
It’s a good thing she did. Since she founded Back on My Feet, the organization has grown beyond Philadelphia and can now be found in cities across the United States. The organization has grown its mission beyond just running, too. Back on My Feet helps its members find and maintain employment and housing outside of homeless shelters.
The Last Continent
In 2013, after six years with Back on My Feet, Anne decided it was time for a change. She left Back on My Feet to start [solidcore] in Washington, D.C. The studio focuses on high-intensity, low-impact movements on a machine called sweatlana. And while the workouts at [solidcore] are designed to work muscles to failure, the business model Anne envisioned is a success. Since opening the first studio in 2013, Anne’s grown [solidcore] to 41 locations and has plans to grow to 125 studios by 2022.
As she’s grown her studio, Anne’s found herself taking time away from running—she hasn’t run much in 5 years. While her [solidcore] workouts keep her in peak physical shape, she realized her break from running was keeping her from attaining a goal she set out to accomplish years ago: to run a marathon on each of the seven continents. At the end of 2018, she realized she kept saying she’d tackle her seventh continent Antarctica “someday,” something that bothered her immensely.
She ended up registering to run the marathon and decided she would commemorate it by raising money for Back on My Feet. She set her goal at $100,000, and after only a few weeks, has already raised almost $80,000.
While not everyone shares Anne’s goal of running a marathon in Antarctica, we all have goals we’ve been putting off. It might be to open a new business, spend more time with family, or give back to your community—Anne says it all boils down to one thing: do we actually want to do it or do we simply like how it feels to say we will?
“We all have 24 hours in our day, and we all spend those hours very different,” Anne says. “It makes you sound better when we say things like ‘Oh, I should’ or ‘I will.’ I challenge people to look at how long you’ve been saying that.”
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