COEUR d'ALENE - The line of people wearing purple shirts snaked back and forth from the massive white tent in the Third Street parking lot.
Sure it was sunny and hot, but they stood, chatting and joking, waiting patiently, for the free dinner, prizes and praise that awaited them inside on Monday night.
On the back of those purple shirts was one word that explained why these folks were due a little pampering: "Volunteer."
Absolutely, they deserve the spotlight, said Michelle Haustein, volunteer director for Ironman Coeur d'Alene.
"I love bragging about my volunteers," she said as she prepared awards to be given out.
This year, 3,762 volunteers helped around 2,200 athletes reach the finish line of the 140.6-mile race on Sunday.
They did that by handing out food, water and sports drinks; pointing people in the right direction; monitoring traffic; marking bodies with numbers and ages; peeling off wetsuits; guarding bikes; and hopping on kayaks and paddleboards to watch over the swimmers.
And yes, they cheered. Loud. Often.
They made the difference on the 10th anniversary of the event.
"I always tell people, the athletes are the soul of the operation, the staff is the brains, but the volunteers are the heart," Haustein said. "Without heart, you're not going to have a race. They keep everything pumping and flowing."
She is not surprised Ironman Coeur d'Alene gets a strong response for volunteers.
"We always go way over, because the community just gets it," she said.
During Monday's volunteer appreciation banquet, several awards were given out.
Captain of the Year went to Kimberly Guthrie, a run course marshal in charge of placing people on corners to keep runners headed the right way.
"That's all they do all day long is direct athletes. They cheer them on, they direct," Haustein said.
As part of her award, Guthrie will receive a free trip to any Ironman in the U.S.
The volunteer of the year award went to Connie Price.
The Hayden woman completed Ironman last year, but had to pull out on the bike course this year.
But she didn't quit. She went home, cleaned up, came back and volunteered. Before the race, she helped in registration, T-shirt sorting, and preparation for meetings. She was out again Monday, pitching in.
Don Sausser spent 12 hours Sunday as a volunteer, and among his duties, he delivered food and ice to volunteers on the course.
He's been stepping up for Ironman since it came to Coeur d'Alene in 2003.
"It's fun to be involved," the Coeur d'Alene man said.
Another 10-year volunteer, Patricia Richardson, has worked a variety of jobs on race day. Her day Sunday started around 8 a.m. and didn't end for 15 hours, as she escorted one of the final runners toward the finish line.
"It was wonderful. I love the energy," she said. "The other volunteers and the athletes are great and they're so appreciative."
Richardson is thrilled there will be five more years of Ironman.
"I think it's a great thing for Coeur d'Alene. I wouldn't miss it for the world," she said.
Sausser, too, is looking forward to more years being an Ironman volunteer.
"If my body works, I will be there," he said with a smile.