What better motivation to run than for a cause you believe in? By Estelle Low
Marie Choo started running to avoid sinking into depression. Photo: Courtesy of Marie Choo
Two years ago, Marie Choo never imagined herself running, let alone complete a marathon. But an ad hoc run in a desperate bid to overcome work stress turned out to be her impetus. Within 10 months, she’d trained herself to take part in her first marathon. The 39-year-old tells Shape about her whirlwind training process and newfound mission to help the less fortunate dogs.
I started running because… I wanted to avoid falling into depression. In April 2014, I felt lost in life and was at the crossroads of my career. I decided to go for a run to clear my head. I only managed to run 2km at most, before physical pain set in.
To motivate me to keep running… my neighbour signed me up for my first race – the Mizuno Wave Run – in August 2014. To a beginner like me, the 15km race was tough as it had lots of terrain. I stopped many times to walk, but as I crossed the finish line, I felt an immense sense of achievement from knowing that I had the courage to start and the determination to complete a race. Then, I knew I would be addicted to running.
To run faster and better… I signed up for a few races in 2014, and increased my running frequency and distance covered. Soon, I sustained injuries from overtraining, and was disappointed when I didn’t achieve my ideal timings at races. My self-confidence plummeted and I beat myself up for not being good enough. As a birthday gift, my neighbour signed me up for the Standard Chartered Half Marathon. I decided to run without expectations and focus on enjoying myself. It turned out to be my best race of 2014. The fact that my husband and some friends congratulated me with flowers and cold drinks at the finish line made the experience a whole lot more memorable. (Overcome These Common Setbacks to Run Better)
My first running goal was… to conquer a marathon. I signed up for the Tokyo Marathon in 2015, as Tokyo is one of my favourite cities. To spur myself on, I attached a charitable cause to my goal by raising funds for Dogs Owners Guidance Support, a dog welfare charity which I co-own. Friends and supporters donated to show their encouragement, and I used the money to buy food for over 100 dogs at a local dog shelter.
During my first marathon… I experienced a roller coaster of emotions, from elation to exhaustion, from excitement to despair. When I ran past the 30km mark, I was so tired that I cried. Supporters along the route encouraged me, and the thought of my loved ones kept me going. When I crossed the finish line after five hours and 58 minutes, I shed tears of relief and happiness.
This year (2016), my goal is… to raise awareness about climate change through the upcoming NTUC Income Run 350, as well as continue raising funds for needy dogs by taking part in the Gold Coast Marathon in July, and the New York City Marathon in November. To donate, drop me a private message on Facebook.
My proudest running moment is… completing the Standard Chartered Half Marathon in 2015 despite recovering from food poisoning. Due to stomach cramps and fatigue, I did not clock a good timing, but I’m happy that I didn’t give up. A fellow runner told me: “It’s easy to run fast under good conditions, but it’s an achievement to complete a race when things aren’t going well.”
I love running because… It’s my form of meditation and gives me time to ponder about life. Through the quiet moments of running alone, I realised that work was the source of my unhappiness. Last year, I mustered up the courage to wind down my public relations company to pursue new interests, such as becoming a dog behaviourist and trainer, as well as a lecturer at a fashion school.
My best running advice is… Be brave enough to take the first step, and an amazing journey will follow. Don’t worry about being too slow; everyone has to start somewhere.
Follow Marie’s running journey on Facebook.