The purpose of this study was to determine if a 7-d systematic reduction in training volume or "taper" could improve distance running performance. Three groups of eight runners were examined: 1) run taper, 2) cycle taper, and 3) control. Training in the run taper group consisted of high-intensity intervals and an 85% reduction in training volume. The cycle taper group performed an equivalent amount of interval training as the run taper group, but each member exercised on a cycle ergometer. Control subjects continued normal training. A self-paced 5-km time trial served as the index of performance. The run taper group decreased 5-km time by 3% (1036.2 +/- 30.6 to 1006.8 +/- 28.2 s, P < 0.005). A significant decrease (P < 0.01) in submaximal oxygen consumption (6%) and calculated caloric expenditure (7%) at a running speed eliciting 80% of VO2max was also evident in the run taper group. Five-km performance and running economy were not altered in the cycle taper or control groups. These findings indicate that 7 d of tapered running improved distance running performance and running economy. A taper regimen of equivalent duration cycle training maintained performance in distance runners.