With its hilly terrain, scenic routes, and easy-to-navigate streets and neighborhoods, Bloomington is a good town for runners. Since the creation of the Bloomington Area Runners Association (BARA) in early 2011, Bloomington has become even more runner-friendly.

“Bloomington has always been a good place to run, but instead of a real community there were little pockets of activity,” says Ben Bartley, co-president of BARA with his wife, Stephanie. “We started BARA to bring runners together and create an organization to help people meet their goals, whether it’s training for a mini or full marathon or 10K race or just running regularly for exercise.”

BARA began as an informal group of runners brought together by the Indiana Running Company, a business opened in 2007 by Ben, Stephanie, and Ben’s parents, Bill and Mickey Bartley. The group gradually grew to around 50 members who met for regular weekly runs and training sessions, prompting Ben Bartley to organize an official runner’s association.

“The store was a great way to grow the running community,” says Bartley, who briefly ran track at IU before graduating in 2006. “BARA gives the group an identity beyond the store and allows us to plan a wide range of programs.”

BARA activities include daily runs (including a three to six mile run every Monday evening, speed work on the IU track, and barefoot runs on the IU cross country course), a training program including instruction on nutrition and core body strength, and a variety of social events.

“We do an annual photo scavenger hunt where teams run around town taking pictures for points, then have a group dinner at the Crazy Horse with a slide show,” Bartley says. “People join BARA initially for the running, but we’ve all come to really enjoy the camaraderie, too.”

BARA currently has about 55 members, comprising graduate students, IU faculty and staff, and athletically minded Bloomingtonians of all stripes. Members benefit not only from getting lots of exercise but also from receiving discounts from community partners including Hoosier CrossFit, Indiana Running Company, Iron Pit Gym, Scholars Inn Bakehouse, and That’s the Rub Massage Therapy Center.

Learn more about BARA and how to join at