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Explore what running means to you

Coaching for runners who want to blossom in training and racing while discovering their joy in the sport


ABOUT The Sunflower Striders

The name Sunflower Striders comes from the joy and power a runner feels when they hit their stride during a run and in memoriam to Coach Samantha's grandmother, Barbara, who loved growing sunflowers every year at her home in Kansas. The same passion and heart that went into growing sunflowers goes into coaching all of the runners in the program.

meet the Coach


Coach Samantha Merkel

With over a decade of competitive experience in the sport, Samantha knows that it takes a careful balance of speed, endurance, and consistency to reach dreams that once seemed impossible--now, she is ready to help others to pursue the same.

Coaching Program

With three different tiers for runners of all experience levels, the coaching program covers an extensive range of training and racing components, including:

  • weekly check-ins over email

  • personalized training plan tailored to the runner's weekly progress and feedback about their health, physical and mental

  • developing mental endurance and strength

  • nutrition tips for training and racing

  • research on races and a racing schedule that meets the athlete's interests and goals

  • developing connections between the runner and local running groups for social runs, as desired by the runner

  • racing strategy development

  • Pre-race consultations

  • on-site coaching for workouts and races

  • strength training and running drill assignments for injury prevention

  • Unlimited contact via text message, phone call, or email 

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