I know this is probably a silly question, but what is a taper? I have run many 5K's and a 10K and 15K. I have basically trained myself, no trainer or coach, and just started on this forum. I hear a lot about tapers, but don't know what they are and how they pertain to my training. Is a taper when you taper down the miles you run in a week? My first 5K was in August of last year, since then have increased to 15K's. Any insight to this would be great. I hope I don't sound like an idiot, but I want to learn everything I can to make myself a better runner and person.
In a nutshell tapering is a way for your body to recuperate while training for an event so that you will be at your peak when race day arrives. Check out some training programs like Hal Higdon's and you will see the taper at the end of the program. Most people use a taper of some sort but some way's/things work better for each indiviual. Try it and it may make you a better runner/racer!! Good luck with future runs :-)
Basically, just cutting back on your routine to prepare for the best race performance. The type of the event makes a difference, as does your overall training schedule. A 5k probably does not require much adjustment, for example. As you progress to longer distances, then it becomes more important to have a plan for gradually reducing exercise.