Charity canoe challenge to Ikano mum of five

After a long day at the office most of us just want to put our feet up and relax but not one Nottingham mum Alison Chemiel.

Alison is deputy managing director of Ikano Financial Services, one of the UK’s leading retail credit and loyalty providers. She has five children and is now in training for one of the toughest challenges of her life.

The 48 year-old has signed up for the longest non stop canoe race in the world, which will see her and a friend cover 125 miles in a K2 from Devizes to Westminster raising money for Rainbows Children’s Hospice, Ikano’s chosen charity for the year.

“A lot of people look at me and think there’s no way I could do that, it’s completely nuts,” explains Alison. “But you’d be surprised at what you can do and what you can manage to fit in your day.” It really is a juggling game between work and home for Alison, whose role at Ikano includes responsibility for finance, IT services & project delivery. Add to that five children all under 16 and anyone would think Alison already has a lot on her plate before adding 10-15 hours a week training!

“I’ve always enjoyed canoeing and the race was something I thought I'd like to have go at. I had just the spark of an idea a few years ago but actually doing it is out on a limb compared to anything I’ve done before. We started with a gentle build up back in September and so far we have each put in over 1,000 miles of training - through ice and snow, in the dark, wind, rain and occasional sunshine.”

“It is hectic now the race is getting close. One day last week we drove to Reading after work and were on the river by 8pm. We paddled for 4 hours in the dark and finally got home to bed about 3.30am in the morning. The children have got to the point where they just think it’s normal and it’s great to see them get into sport too.”

So why does she do it? “It gives me a chance to have a goal of my own to go for. Like most working mums I put a lot of time and effort into my family and my job and it’s been great to try something so completely different. I surprise myself with what I can do and being fit means I have the energy to do more with my family and that’s really important. Our aim is to finish the race in under 24 hours and raise as much money for Rainbows as we can.”