Very good points! I think what makes this a complicated issue is the different approaches involved in achieving good performances. In the case of mid distance running, this can be accomplished by increasing VO2 max (through volume and/or intensity) or by making oneself more efficient in other areas.
In fact, just like the correlation between strength max. and performance IS NOT absolute, VO2 max and performance is not absolute.
Other factors include: mental attitude (ability to tolerate pain), running economy (how efficiently one runs), and lactate threshold (fastest pace you can maintain without accumulating large amounts of lactic acid in your blood). A runner with a relatively low VO2 max, but high in these other performance factors, could outperform a runner with a significantly higher VO2 max but with poor running economy and a low lactate threshold.
In other words, lower VO2 max values can be compensated with high efficiency and the ability to run at a higher percentage of one's VO2 max without accumulating too much lactic acid (high lactate threshold).
The fact that H.S. coaches focuses on longer run come from the improving VO2 max view through volume. It is important to note that VO2 max is improved by training above 75% max. of heart rate. This heart rate above 75% can be achieved by increasing intensity OR volume. Having said that…Increasing VO2 by increasing intensity, as opposed to volume, seems to be more efficient.
Not bad for a freaking 100m sprinter, huh? :saint: