Sara Tye, 49, was recently appointed to chair Swindon Triathlon Club after predecessor Paul Cox stepped down following a two-year stint. Award-winning entrepreneur Sara is the founder and boss of Old Town-based RedheadPR. She has two daughters.
SARA Tye began running in earnest a few years ago, having previously jogged.
She was an early member of the Swindon Shin Splints Club run by Steve Goulding.
“He inspired a lot of people to run. He took a whole group of us who had never run before – this was on the very day it started – and got us to run.
“I ran lots of half marathons and then suddenly was starting to run things like 15 miles on a Saturday morning, and I got an injury called plantar faciitis, which is from over-training.
“I couldn’t walk for a year.”
For most people, this would be a cue to put their feet up, at least for a while.
Sara took a different approach – one which led her toward an even more gruelling discipline.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to have to cross-train — there’s no way I can just carry on doing running’. So I started swimming and then I started cycling the Ridgeway.”
She later competed in the Royal Wootton Bassett Sprint Triathlon, an annual race involving a 400m pool swim, a 20km bike ride and a 5km run.
Another inspiration was the story of Emma-Kate Lidbury, a former Swindon Advertiser reporter who became a successful professional triathlete after being writing an article about the sport.
Sara cheerfully admits that her attitude to endurance events reflects her attitude to life.
“I have a bit of a philosophy that if I’m going to do something and it’s going to take up a lot of time, either do the extra to the best of your ability or don’t bother.
“If you’re going to do seven hours’ training a week you might as well do nine hours and do it well than spend seven hours doing it and not really getting anywhere.”
Sara, who has two brothers, is originally from Old Town.
“I lived in a residential home for the elderly – my parents owned one – when I was young. There weren’t many in Swindon then, so I was brought up in a very different environment.
“I basically lived in a business and then my parents moved and bought a hotel in St Ives and I didn’t go with them. I stayed in Swindon from, I think, about the age of 17 or 18.”
After attending Commonweal School, Sara began work at the Royal Military College of Science when she was 17. Countless hours of spare time were devoted to six years of business courses at Swindon College.
“It’s not very nice, studying on a Saturday when it’s boiling hot and everybody’s out doing stuff and you’re working full time. But it paid off. It definitely paid off.”
Sara lists two women as her greatest inspirations. One is her mother “…because she ran a residential home from when residential homes were just new on the horizon as a business.
“She always got me to push the boundaries; she always got me to invest in property even if you could hardly afford to.”
The other inspirational woman is the late Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop.
At 23 Sara, having acquired two post-graduate qualifications during those long years of study in Swindon, was appointed her personal public relations specialist, a role she held for three years.
Meeting a hero is sometimes a disenchanting experience, but the pioneering tycoon was everything Sara had hoped she would be.
“It was bigger than anything you could ever dream of. She was amazing.”
Sara had longed since childhood to seek her fortune in the capital.
“I always knew I’d be running my own business of some sort. Weirdly, my vision was to be hugely high-profile for something to do with business and become a consultant in somewhere like Harley Street – even though I didn’t know that was just a doctors’ location!
“My whole ambition was to go to London and work and become a huge figure in something that I was going to do.
“When I first thought of that I didn’t even know what PR was, so we’re talking about fourteen or fifteen.
“I used to pore over things like Vogue magazine and I used to go to London when was I was sixteen to shop at Harrods and Harvey Nichols. I’d get there at nine o’clock on a Saturday morning, just because I really wanted that type of lifestyle.”
Sara went on to have senior communications and PR roles with firms such as BT, Thames Water, Yellow Pages and two major PR agencies before founding her own firm 14 years ago.
Her awards and honours include being shortlisted in 1999 for the inaugural Cosmopolitan Women of the Year Awards.
The financial crash of 2008 sent many companies to the wall, but not Sara’s. She decided to relocate from central London to her home town.
The move from London raised some eyebrows among her associates.
“People said to me, ‘There’s absolutely no way, if you want to run a blue chip public relations consultancy can you run it outside the centre of town.’”
She is proud to have proved them wrong.
“I was completely daunted but I just started the process on day one and followed through every single day. It was just another crisis project, if you see what I mean, like crisis communications when you get a phone call.
“It was weird – I never thought I’d come back but it was the best thing I did.”
In her new role at the head of the 140-member Swindon Triathlon Club Sara aims to reach out and inspire others to become involved in the sport.
She believes it is good not just for physical but also psychological fitness.
“When you know that you can cycle for four and a half hours and get off the bike, feel okay and have a cup of coffee and lunch with somebody, that’s an amazing feeling.”
Sara is fond of a comment made by Louis Zamperini, an American Olympian distance runner and World War Two hero, who died recently: “One moment of pain can give you a lifetime of glory.”