That cup is also more than likely to ho' />

Allison Roe has always been a "cup half-full" type - "as one door closes another opens" is her life motto.

That cup is also more than likely to hold a healthy infusion these days, and it was certainly herbal teas all round at her Takapuna home this week, as she took a break from a paper-strewn office and email-crammed laptop to reflect on the greatest year of her outstanding athletics career.

This Herald interview wasn't just a trip down memory lane and no conversation with Roe is likely to stay trapped in the past. Talk turned to her dedication to improving women's health, a long-held passion.

And this weekend is particularly important. Tomorrow, the final stage of her latest nationwide Run2Heal series of fun runs is at the Auckland Domain, where about 3000 entrants will boost fundraising which supports breast-cancer fighting initiatives and other health work.

But this year is a landmark, giving Roe cause to take a rare glimpse at the past. It is 25 years since she stormed the athletics world by winning the Boston and New York City marathons, breaking the world record in the latter and becoming a golden cover girl. And in a month's time, Roe turns 50.

"I remember when my mother turned 40, my father had just traded in a lawn mower, and he said he'd be able to trade in my mother for two 20-year-olds," she says with her trademark laugh.

"My younger sister started crying. Now I'm 10 years older than mum was then, but it's all relative and it's important we keep moving, keep evolving."

But firstly, back to 1981, the infamous nation-splitting Springbok tour year.

The 1.73m Roe, who Arthur Lydiard wrote off as a marathoner because of her size, arrived at the famous Boston event fairly unknown - despite having just broken the 20km world record in Japan - and left a star.

There was her athleticism, and her looks.

Roe recalls: "I remember this crazy [American] reporter wrote that I made Bo Derek look like an eight. If you had seen this guy, incredibly thick glasses, probably alcoholic by the smell of his breath, I'm not sure you would say he was a good judge of these things. It felt highly embarrassing."

For youngsters unaware of Bo Derek, star of the film 10 and very little else, then ask your dads. But put it this way - she wasn't regarded as ugly.

The Boston win began an exciting but tumultuous time.

Roe was soon embroiled in an amateur-era row, when with countrywomen Anne Audain and Lorraine Moller she raced in a Portland event which advertised prizemoney (Roe and the US-based Moller are still firm friends).

Prizemoney, or more importantly appearance fees, had long been the norm. Roe frequently accepted envelopes stacked with American bills, and coyly declines to put a number to her best-stacked envelope. It would have contained many, many tens of thousands of dollars.

From this distance, a quarter of a century later, in very different times, it is hard to fathom an era where getting paid was an issue, just as it is comical to remember that All Blacks were banned for accepting book royalties.

Women were also still fighting for complete acceptance as long-distance runners around this time, and Roe hoped the open-money race would help women get prize parity. She also wanted to rid the sport of an appearance fee rort, where stars turned up for full pay but not full performance.

She was banned briefly by the New Zealand Amateur Athletics Association, then struck a short-lived deal by which the association got a cut of her prizes, before open professionalism found its feet.

It made for a remarkable build-up to New York because, for a time, she was not supposed to even race in amateur events for fear of "contaminating" them.

And Roe was so well known following the Boston event in April, having appeared on national American television shows, that she had to take the phone off the hook and lock her hotel room door before the New York race six months later.

After breaking the record in New York, the world really was her oyster.

"Up until then I'd even bought all my own shoes," she says. "After New York I never paid for an air ticket, a pair of shoes or a hotel room again."

Among her new assignments was an advertisement for the new health kick of the day, decaffeinated coffee, which included superstars David Bowie and Dustin Hoffman, although they were filmed on different locations.

Enter sleazy reporter number two.

"He sidled up to me at the launch of the commercial," says Roe "and said, 'It's amazing what you can do with blonde hair, long legs and half a brain.'

"My philosophy in life is to see the bright side. So considering that most people use only 10 per cent of their brain, I decided to treat it as not too bad a comment."

Accolades and awards followed the double triumph, but nothing was ever to match that 1981 year. An upper hamstring injury, involving a chipped bone and haematoma more in keeping with a rugby accident, and suffered while leaping down stairs during a house renovation in Auckland, finished her top-class running career, although she dabbled successfully in cycling and triathlons.

It meant she never competed at an Olympics; instead, Sports Illustrated hired her as a corporate host during the 1984 Los Angeles Games where the first Olympic women's marathon was staged.

Ever the positive, she described it as one of the best experiences of her life.

"We flew to the colosseum, travelled around LA, went on the Love Boat, stayed at Greta Garbo's old house. Sports Illustrated hired half a dozen mansions in Beverly Hills and I slept in a different one every night.

"Missing the Olympics never bugged me. A gold medal would have been the icing on the cake, but I always wanted to break records, to go where no one else had ever been, and I held two world marks."

Her enthusiastic recall of the Los Angeles experience gives extra validity to her claim that "my main motivation for running was to travel and see the world, meet interesting people. It was nothing to do with winning races to begin with."

Her last competitive marathon was in San Francisco in the mid-1980s. Her last serious race - winning a team gold in the national cycling championships - was in 1988.

Since then there have been various ventures, such as the exhausting experience of running an independent sports television production company for seven years.

She has two children, 16-year-old Jordyn and 13-year-old Elliott (named after her coach Gary Elliott) to former husband Richard Roe.

"We were together for 20 years, married for 18, and the separation was the worst time of my life," she says.

She has remarried, to retired real estate man Allan Barwick, which has also brought stepchildren Kirsty (32) and Brett (28) into her life.

It was the birth of Jordyn which led her on a new path of environmental issues and the effect of chemicals etc on the body, and the need to embrace a more holistic view of health.

There was history to her health awareness via her parents, who now live on the Gold Coast. The Roe children were brought up on the belief that diet and exercise not only gave a more enjoyable existence, but prolonged life for those who knew they had dangerous health histories.

Her father Allan Deed, a longtime Milford GP who still practises six days a week as he nears his 80th birthday, comes from a family with heart disease. Her mother Pamela, and many of her relatives, battle diabetes.

"When I go, it will be with a bang, or a sugar rush," says Roe.

Not that she looks remotely near either and is hoping that her Allison Roe Trust - which gives money to health causes - and her other health work will help many others to avoid such problems.

She not only puts her money into making the trust work, but is set to auction off most of her athletics memorabilia and trophies to boost the coffers. The items will likely include the Boston Marathon medal, studded with a diamond. Another medal has, she understands, fetched more than $100,000.

"I became much more aware of health issues after my daughter was born," says Roe, who still does four hour-long runs a week.

"The health statistics are alarming. I wanted to make a difference in the community, doing something positive to turn it around.

"We need a paradigm shift in health care. We need a huge focus on preventative medicine to reduce hospital queues. There needs to be cooperation between mainstream and complementary therapy. Things are definitely improving - but we need to know the truth about good health.

"This is my passionate interest. Too often we are fixed on things that just earn more revenue for ourselves."

* Runners can still register for Run2Heal at the Auckland Domain rotunda between noon and 4pm today, or 7 and 8am tomorrow.

Quick Look
Britain's Paula Radcliffe holds the world marathon record of 2h 15m 25s, set at London in 2003. Roe's 1981 record was 2h 25.29s, which is now just outside the top 200 times. Radcliffe has run four of the five fastest women's marathons.