Marie Choo: the former PR agency owner who’s running ultra-marathons for rescue dogs

Marie Choo

She started out not being able to finish a two-kilometer run, three years ago, this health and fitness buff now runs ultra-marathons around the world, both to raise funds and awareness for rescue dogs, and to challenge herself.

Meet Marie Choo, founder and former owner of Alchemist PR, a successful public relations agency that counted a long list of hip fashion and lifestyle brands as clients. As spin-doctor extraordinaire to the fashion world and all-round style maven, Marie spent over a decade conceptualizing and organising cool events for clients, and as a sought-after guest, attended just as many.

Two years ago, Marie left the glitz and excitement of public relations to become a dog behaviorist and trainer, and is now also a part-time fashion communications lecturer at LASALLE College Of The Arts.

Her former life in PR was fast-paced, high-profile and involved long hours of meetings, wining, dining, schmoozing, getting clients featured, and being interviewed herself in the press and glossies. While she values her experiences and the connections she’s built as a public relations whiz, and is grateful for the professional success she enjoyed, up to a point, being in the industry ceased to give her personal satisfaction.

And while she started out not being able to finish a two-kilometer run, three years ago, this health and fitness buff now runs ultra-marathons around the world, both to raise funds and awareness for rescue dogs, and to challenge herself.

Known to some as The Dog Alchemist, she is also the brand athlete for Under Armour, TripleFit, Simply Active, Pure Sports Nutrition and The Primal Pantry. The over-achiever recently conquered her fear of the open sea to become a certified diver.

ashlogue-magazine_ashlogue_ashleey-leong_marie-choo_under-armour_under-armour-marie-choo_under-armour-brand-ambassador_CNA-marie-choo-1050x700To know Marie is to be infected and inspired by her can-do spirit and inimitable combination of grit and glamour. Few things faze this tough-as-nails individual. Beneath the steely exterior and spit-fire spirit is a disarmingly kind and gentle-hearted animal welfare advocate.

Find out how she reinvented her life and turned the impossible possible.

Tough love

I got involved in dog rescue and welfare work back in 2011. I was doing hands-on work in cleaning kennels, walking dogs, rescuing, rehoming and rehabilitating dogs.

In 2013, I started practising professionally as a dog behaviorist and trainer and now people know me as The Dog Alchemist.

I started running to raise funds and awareness for rescue dogs back in 2014.

I became a lecturer at LASALLE in 2015. I have always wanted to teach and it is my way of engaging the younger generation and sharing my experience in the fashion industry with them.

Dirty work

ashlogue_ashleeyleong_mariechoo_sosd_dogs_collatethelabel_fendi_fendilei_singapore-fort-canning_fort-canning_marie-choo-the-straits-times_marie-choo-channel-news-asia_singapore-sports
Animal welfare work can be tough, messy, will-testing and heart-breaking, but it’s always fulfilling. I started off cleaning shelter kennels and walking rescue dogs. I didn’t want to just be a keyboard warrior getting angry at people who abuse and abandon dogs. I wanted to make a difference by doing hands-on work. After a year of volunteering, I asked myself what more I could do to help eradicate the problem.

Education is one way to solve the root of the problem, by improving the relationship between dogs and humans. I believe that if I advocate responsible dog ownership, there will be less abandonment cases to add on to the burden of already crowded dog shelters. That was what motivated me to study dog behavior and training. I took a correspondence course with a school based in the UK.

I also wanted to share with the general public that stray dogs are nothing to be fearful of and that they don’t attack if they are not provoked.

Rehabilitation is another key area that I focus on, and by that I mean I will help rescue dogs overcome their fear and issues, and make them sociable and ready to be adopted. If we can re-home more rescue dogs, we can free up space in the dog shelters to help more dogs.

I decided to then be The Dog Alchemist, to help owners train their dogs, so that they can have a better relationship with their dogs, by managing or eradicating any behavioral issues.

One of my life-long wishes is to help eradicate dog abuse and abandonment, and that more people will choose to adopt rather than buy.

As a lecturer, I get to pay it forward by sharing my experiences with youths. As much as they can learn from me, I can also learn from them through our interactions. It is always refreshing to meet and engage with the young people.

Being a multi-marathoner means a lot to me. Not only can I use it to raise funds and awareness for rescue dogs in Singapore, it also inspires others to embark on their own fitness journey.

Being a multi-hyphenate…

Means being happy. To be able to do what I love on a daily basis gives me immense satisfaction and rewards. I never imagined myself to be a dog behaviorist and trainer till five years ago. To be able to help dogs and watch them transform from fearful to loving and well-adjusted is what makes me do what I do.

Being a multi-marathoner means a lot to me. Not only can I use it to raise funds and awareness for rescue dogs in Singapore, it also inspires others to embark on their own fitness journey. When I first started out, I couldn’t even run 2km. These days, I run ultra-marathons and I’m proud to have completed my first 50km ultra-trail race in Hong Kong. I’ve also completed marathons in Tokyo and the Gold Coast. Currently I’m working towards my first 100km and half Ironman next year.

I became a fitness buff after a health scare six years ago made me decide to take better care and take charge of my health. I started running three years ago and only started training at a gym late last year. Being a geek of sorts, I decided to study and get certified as a fitness trainer. I am not taking on clients at the moment, but I plan to do so next year. I want to gain more practical experience by learning from the best in the industry before I take on my own clients. I believe many will find my fitness journey an inspiring one and will be able to relate to me and not be intimidated.

A typical day…

ashlogue_ashleeyleong_mariechoo_sosd_dogs_collatethelabel_fendi_fendilei_singapore-fort-canning_fort-canning_marie-choo-the-straits-times_marie-choo-channel-news-asia_fort-canning-arts-centreStarts at 6am. I go for a run, walk my two lovely dogs, Butter and Ash, then make myself a good breakfast. Afterwards I head to the gym for training, then meet up with friends. In the evening I walk my dogs again. I always end my day with a good dinner with my husband.

Life-long learning

I have an insatiable appetite to keep learning. When I like something, I need to know all the facts. I love dogs, so I decided to study dog behavior and training. For the love of fitness, I studied and got certified as a fitness trainer. Before I became a lecturer, I took the ACTA (advanced certification in training and assessment) course by IAL (institute of adult learning) to ensure that I was well equipped to teach. Besides formal education and certification, I like talking to veterans in various fields. I believe the best way to learn is to ask and listen from those with more experience.

 Inspirations

When it comes to fitness, I count many of my friends as inspiration — the friends I’ve made at Running Department, my trainers and training mates from TripleFit gym, and the pro athletes. I am inspired by ordinary, everyday people too. People who go against all odds to achieve what they set their minds on. I consider myself an underdog with no athletic prowess nor good genes, but I make it up with hard work and determination. So, anyone who works hard to achieve their fitness goals will also be a source of inspiration for me.

When it comes to fitness, I count many of my friends as inspiration — the friends I’ve made at Running Department, my trainers and training mates from TripleFit gym, and the pro athletes. I am inspired by ordinary, everyday people too.

Success

It’s about being true to yourself, being happy and pursuing something that can make a difference to the lives of others. The secret of my success is being determined, working hard, staying humble, perpetual learning, having respect for others, and loving myself.

Three things she lives by

Fitness. Dogs. Loved ones.

Women…

Should learn to appreciate and love themselves and be kind to other women.

On a bad day…

I go for a run.

Who she would most want to run with…

Kilian Jornet and Anton Krupicka.

Why animal welfare?

As humans, we should be humane. Animals have so much to teach us and are sentient beings too.

The last thing I do at night is…

Check my phone as I like reading articles online and catching up on social media.

Photo credits: Ashlogue and Shaun Tay (IG: @ashlogue @sk_shaun)

Written By

Susanah Cheok, a publishing stalwart and seasoned journalist, have been in leadership roles for 16, nine of which were served at Group Editor level for Singapore’s number one, most-read women’s lifestyle magazine Her World, as well as an award-winning portfolio of titles like Female, Nuyou, Simply Her, Her World Brides, Female Brides and 24:7. She founded THE EDIT, a multi-platform content creation and refinement consultancy.

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