Published: Nov 12, 2011 4:51 AM EST

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Runners in Southwest Florida took to the streets Friday night for the annual Midpoint Madness 5K Race. There are races like this scheduled almost every weekend. But this one in particular hits home with a lot of people. Not only do they come out to support the Lee County YMCA, it's another way to salute our local military on Veterans Day.

Hector Hernandez of Fort Myers joined the army in 1991.

"This is my day," Hernandez said. "I've done everything throughout the day I wanted to do, spent time with the family, and hopefully I'll cap it off with a nice run and just feel good about myself at the end of it."

He spent 15 years on active duty, later joining the Florida National Guard. He's been deployed twice, and came back as part of the Wounded Warrior Program.

To most, a 5K race is a big feat. Compared to working in the 130-degree heat of the desert, it's a walk in the park. "Especially considering the additional weight you're not having to carry," Hernandez said.

Hundreds laced up their shoes for the 14th annual Veterans Day Midpoint Madness race, each with their own way of saying "thank you."

"I haven't missed any since I started 6 years ago, 7 years ago," John Peterson.

A cool breeze kept Lynn Rowe's flag waving, as he carried the stars and stripes all 3.1 miles.

"I got this idea from a friend who runs marathons with the flag and I was really happy to try and do this again," Rowe said. "I do it on 9/11, do my little run so, just a way to salute the veterans. Appreciate their service."

The overall winner, 18 year-old Ryan Stafford crossed the finish line in 16 minutes flat with his own inspiration fueling him to end.

"My grandfather is a veteran, so it's always good to support them too," Stafford said.

41 year-old Rachel Lee led the women with a time of 18:42. Running is a grueling sport. But it's also a freedom, thanks to the men and women who serve this country.    

"It feels good to get the pat on the back, it does," Hernandez said.

Proceeds from the race went toward scholarships for the Lee County YMCA.