An interview with Grant Thornton “Ronner” Hemal Shah ahead of the 2021 London Marathon

Well, here we are. As a truly inspiring summer of sport draws to a close, there is one more incredibly important event to go. The London Marathon, which is taking place on Sunday, is arguably the single most important event in the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund’s calendar. Each year, our team of ‘Ronners’ aims to collectively raise around £50,000 for the charity. The importance of their efforts cannot be overstated, as the money they raise forms the entirety of the funding available to support athletes in our annual grants, the applications for which will open on 11 October 2021.

Without the efforts of these inspiring individuals, it would be impossible for the charity to continue supporting talented young athletes, who often go on to become Team GB Olympians. We are always looking for future Ronners, so if you would be interested in running on our behalf, then please get in touch using the email

This year we have a truly diverse and exciting team of Ronners taking up the mantle of running the marathon. Some are choosing to do so alone, others in small groups. We also have a number of teams, including one made up of employees from Grant Thornton, a business advisory firm who have been a long-standing and highly valued partner of the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund for many years.

This year four Grant Thornton employees will be running for Ron in the London Marathon. One such runner is Hemal Shah. Already a keen sportsman, having played Badminton with the Kenyan National Team in his teenage years, Hemal will be taking on his first marathon on Sunday. We caught up with him as he makes his final marathon preparations, to find out more about his journey up to this point.

What inspired you to run the London Marathon in support of the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund?

I have been a regular runner for many years but never had the courage to run a marathon. Something clicked in my head this year and I got a place to run for RPMF via Grant Thornton who have supported this initiative for many years.  I read more about RPMF and was delighted to raise funds for the future Team GB stars – and particularly liked the amazing facts about Team GB medal winners in Tokyo, all of who had received grants at some point from RPMF, as well as the fact that its trustees are unpaid volunteers and seek to minimise the administration costs.

Most of all, I lost a family member to Covid earlier this year and he had introduced me to badminton and the importance of always having something to work towards. He also instilled in me the discipline of keeping active, which I have tried to maintain around work and family demands. Training for 3 October has given me something to work towards and the hours of time and space to absorb the loss.

You also mentioned that you had been watching the athletics at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, was this your first time watching the sport or have you been a fan for a while?

Coming from Kenya, I have watched Kenyan stars succeed in athletics most of my life and the Seoul Olympics in 1988 are my earliest memories. I can vividly remember Paul Ereng’s fantastic 800m race, Peter Rono’s 1500m win and Julius Korir’s steeplechase win (I really can remember a lot about the 1988 Olympics!). I was privileged to watch Usain Bolt’s 200m win at London 2012 and, in the same evening, saw David Rudisha break the world record in an outstanding 800m race.  Eliud Kipchoge is a great inspiration for my boys and a fantastic role model for everybody with his “No Limits” motto.

How have you found the experience of training for the marathon?

Prior to training for the marathon, I was regularly running 10-14km and had stepped up to running half marathon distances last autumn. This gave me a baseline level of stamina to build from once I got my marathon place in July and I have tried to step up by a few km each Sunday. Clearly, running the longer distances has been a huge challenge, particularly in terms of learning to slow down in the beginning as I was not familiar with what pace to run at different stages. I have definitely improved in pacing myself better whilst I have had moments asking myself why I am putting myself through this pain!

Do you have any specific targets that you’d like to achieve on the day?

I will be delighted if I can get through in sub four hours without stopping along the way. Some of my sponsors have pledged to add more donations if I beat the four-hour target so I feel this added responsibility to push myself on the day.

All of us here at the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund would like to take the opportunity to wish Hemal, and the rest of the Ronners, the best of luck this weekend.

If you would like to support Hemal, then you can donate to his Virgin Money Giving page by clicking here.

If you are interested in becoming a future Ronner, then please get in touch via the email We’re really excited to hear from you.