Around 100 sorority women lined the sidewalk of Antelope Creek early Sunday morning, clad in their house’s T-shirts and sweatshirts, topped with blue aprons. Every few seconds, the women would take a few steps to their left, fitting as many paper cups in their hands as they could.
“You’re doing great!” they chanted. “Keep it up! You’re almost there, runners!”
Nearly 4,200 people ran the annual Good Life Halfsy half marathon through Lincoln on Sunday -- and hundreds of volunteers handed them water, Gatorade and energy gels along the way.
Throughout the 13.1 mile course -- starting at Seacrest field, weaving through Holmes lake and ending in the West Haymarket -- there were six aid/water stations set up for runners.
Near 27th Street and Capitol Parkway at mile marker nine sat station No. 4 -- run by University of Nebraska-Lincoln sororities Kappa Alpha Theta and Alpha Xi Delta.
Constantly cheering on the runners, some of the young woman even had bull horns.
Sophomore Madi Meacham said she holds the water cups in the palm of her hand, or by pinching the rim so runners can quickly grab and go during the race.
“I think the funniest thing was when runners figured out we were all in sororities,” said Theta philanthropy chair Courtney Ruda. “They started yelling, ‘Cheer louder for us, sorority girls!’”
Meacham was one of the designated motivators. After a recent hip injury that kept her bound to crutches and unable to serve water, she had to assume a new role.
“You’ve gotta motivate if you can’t hydrate,” she said.
“It’s cool when they have their names on their shirt, that way you can cheer their names out,” Meacham added. “They’re like, ‘Yeah, you’re cheering for me!’”
Meacham said she got many grateful responses from runners while standing in her spot next to the sidewalk.
“Some people think it’s a little weird, you get a couple looks, but for the most part they cheer with you,” Meacham said. “They’re pumped that you’re pumped.”
That gratefulness also stood out to freshman Brianna Knipp who was manning the first water table at the station. What shocked her the most was that "Nebraska Nice" held true even when people were getting toward the end of the race.
“A lot of people say, 'Thank you,' even if they don’t take water,” Knipp said. “They’ll say, ‘Thank you for being here, that’s so nice of you.’”
Meacham also appreciated the kindness so late in the race, saying she was pleasantly surprised by people’s high spirits.
“If I was running this, by mile nine I’d be shot; I would not be able to form coherent sentences,” Meacham said. “And for the most part they will yell, ‘Thank you for volunteering, thank you for being here.' So that always feels good. Especially because they take oxygen out of their lungs to say it when they’re running a half marathon.”
Freshman Leesa Gierham said she felt the most important job they had Sunday morning was being as energetic as possible to get the runners through the last leg of the Good Life Halfsy.
“I love how positive everyone is. And I think we all need to be, because pretty much everyone is dying at this point,” said freshman Leesa Gierham.
The only downside to the volunteer experience? Some of the girls’ shoes got a little damp.
“Sometimes people try to throw them away when the cups are still mostly full, and we’re all in the splash zone,” Meacham said.
More than anything, the experience inspired the sorority woman, said freshman Claire Hofmann. Several girls considered running the half marathon next year.
“People of all shapes and sizes are capable of doing this run," Hofmann said. "It motivates me to go to the gym later today.”