Even if we are to believe this estimate, what does this mean in terms of race performances?
My view of this estimate is that it probably has more validity for runners who compete in distances between 800 meters and 5K in which VO2Max is a greater factor on performance than longer distances in which lactate threshold is a greater determinant of performance.
should pay attention to what the elites are doing and learn from them?
Absolutely. In fact, there is an excellent editorial in the current issue of Running Times that addresses this question. In it, the editor in chief, Jonathan Beverly, expertly points out what some in the media seem to forget, notably that elite runners possess the same physical systems as other runners and that while they are certainly gifted, this doesn’t make their training irrelevant. I’m sorry this discussion veered off track, but I think it reveals the extent of the chasm that exists within the running community between the Lydiard-inspired camp and the “less is more” coalition.