Months shy of the race that would crown a glorious career, John Ngugi received an offer that seemed too good to be true.

The Kenyan, fresh from collecting the third of his five world cross country titles, was lured to Indonesia with the promise of riches from a local apparatchik, an improbable bonus prize of $500,000 on offer if the world record could be claimed over 10 kilometres.

Pitted against his compatriot Paul Kipkoech, he was forced to send out an urgent request for shoes to be flown out to their island when he arrived without suitable footwear. That they barely fitted mattered little, as both men hunted down the bounty on offer as the stopwatch ticked over.

"Suddenly I felt like I was being blown away," Ngugi recounts. It seemed as though a helicopter was pushing both men backwards, almost conspiratorially. Ultimately, he missed out on the jackpot by a single second. "I felt terrible because I needed the money," he laughs, some 26 years on. "It was good money. I'm still getting over it."

Now 52, the 1988 Olympic 5000 metres champion is still racing against the wind, with a Foundation in his homeland which offers some stability to orphaned children in and around the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Running, however, remains his passion even if he lacks the amazing grace of his pomp.

In Edinburgh to conduct a clinic arranged by renowned sports scientist, Dr. Andrew Murray, he acknowledges the handful of visits made on business to Scotland, undeterred by the natural elements. Close-to-zero temperatures will be expected tomorrow in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park for the Lindsay's national 4K cross country championships but few among Scotland's track elite - Laura Muir excepted - will sully their soles. The money and the status comes on 400m ovals or on the road. Times, irrevocably, have changed.

These were the days Ngugi lived for. "At that time, cross country helped prepare me to run well on track. It was like training. Where I was born in Kenya, it was easier to go from home to school if I ran what was effectively cross country.

"Cross country is difficult. Sometimes you run in the mud, sometimes in the snow. There can be hail or rain. Many runners don't want to do it now. That is sad. I used to enjoy it. I remember in 1988 in New Zealand, it was good for me. There was no mud, no cold weather, no snow. There was one in 1986, in Switzerland, where there was too much snow, it was freezing. But I just loved to win."

Mo Farah did likewise once, the Londoner a regular fixture at the January International in Holyrood Park up to 2011. He has not run a cross since, a period which has brought him eight major titles. "He's the best," Ngugi declares.

In Ngugi's hometown of Nyahururu, the Seoul Olympics of 1988 were a nadir. Steeplechase gold went to Julius Kariyuki, the marathon to Sammy Wanjiru.

"So I felt I wanted that also," he admits. Domingo Castro, a perennial rival, was painted as his expected adversary. As both warmed up, the Portuguese champion leant in. "John," he whispered, "you know you can't run good on the track. You're better in the bush."

Vengeance was swift. Silver and bronze went to Germany. Castro had received karma's reward. "He was crying," Ngugi smiles. "He didn't even get silver. He was saying: 'this is my gold'. But he was fourth and he was crying."

His confidence was supreme, born of the knowledge that to survive the Kenyan trials was to surmount the toughest hurdle. Those, like Callum Hawkins and Andrew Butchart, who plan to use Bellahouston as a springboard for the European cross, will benefit from internal rivalries.

"To be the national champion you knew you had to work out and train hard, or you would lose," confirms Ngugi. "But if you won, you could relax when you went abroad because you knew you had the talent to win."