Creek’s Eduardo Souza shares some long-distance insights on the eve of the butterfly run

Eduardo Souza isn’t one to let himself fall behind. When his mother, then in her early 60s, started running and placed in a local church race, he realized that nothing was stopping him from winning races as well.

He started small with a mud run and then joined Evolution Fitness, where he teamed up with others to do more mud and Spartan races. He eventually completed his first traditional race, the Boca Mile. Then he graduated to 5-kilometer runs, 10Ks, half-marathons and eventually 26.2-mile races, including the famed Boston Marathon. Five years later, Souza has participated in multiple local runs, including seven last year, such as the Space Coast Marathon and Half Marathon in Cocoa, where he was the male masters winner.

His longest distance? The Dunes 100 in Jupiter, which included 50 grueling miles on sugar sand. He and a fellow runner, who Souza met and ran alongside that day, decided to cross the finish line together after about 22 hours. While they split the first prize money, Souza was happy just to complete the race.

“I was like, ‘You can have the trophy.’ I was just glad to be done,” he says. “This year, I told my daughter, ‘Let’s go there and volunteer, but I’m not running that one ever again.’ ”

Since 2015, one of the Coconut Creek resident’s regular races is the Butterfly Run. “The people are really friendly, and it’s a mixture of families and run clubs,” Souza says.

His success at the Butterfly Run reflects his steady growth as a long-distance competitor. In 2015, he finished 10th overall, the fourth-place male resident, and second in his age group. In 2016, he placed sixth overall, was the third-place male resident and won his age group. In 2017, he was the top male resident and third overall. Souza says the run is special because it’s not only locally popular but also has a good variety of runners.

“I’m going through that process right now, where, in all of my races, I’m getting a little bit faster,” says Souza, noting that he finished the 2017 Fort Lauderdale Marathon 10 minutes faster than in 2016 (and finished fourth in the male ages 35-39 category). “I didn’t try to make a big jump—trimming my 5K time to 15 minutes from 20 minutes. I just tried to get better little by little.”

Up next, Souza plans to do the Keys 100 in May and eventually wants to run in a 100-mile road race. In the meantime, he’s preparing for the annual Butterfly Run—and offering Coconut Creek Lifestyle a few tips for locals also looking to hit the road Feb. 4.

Just start running: Though he runs less often during the summers, Souza prepares for races by running every day. “You don’t have to run fast, as long as you’re not walking,” he says. “It has to be consistent. Your body will learn.” Finding himself lagging during the Flanigan’s Rockin’ Rib 10K in November, Souza challenged himself to run every day for 100 days to prepare for Fort Lauderdale Marathon, which made a huge difference.

Don’t go at it alone: “It’s always easier running with people when you’re training rather than going out by yourself,” Souza says. To keep up encouragement and motivation, Souza runs with a group of friends most mornings and he also runs with a group on Sundays in Boca Raton.

Pace yourself: At his first 5K, Souza thought he had adequately prepared by buying a running watch, but he underestimated the endurance needed for a 5K. “[After] the first mile and a half, it felt as if the race would never end,” Souza says. “I was looking at my watch, almost finishing. I’m like, ‘I just want to return this watch and never run again.’ ” To avoid burning out, Souza advises first-time racers to pace themselves. “Sometimes with shorter races, people try to go all out, and it makes it difficult,” Souza says. “You can’t go [all out] the first half-mile, because then you’re going to be tired the last 2½ miles.”

Track yourself: Souza recommends using Strava, an app that tracks your miles for each run, your pace and photos. It also connects you to other athletes who give you “kudos,” and more. Another tool is Athlinks.com, with which you can create a profile showing your races, times and more.

Make it a family affair: Souza’s daughter Sarah, 11, has been inspired by his running. She placed second in her age group at last year’s Butterfly Run and has run local mile races. She also started running cross country at Lyons Creek Middle School last year. Souza says it’s been a good way to spend time together and adds another element of fun to their runs, including the Butterfly Run.

Make friends: Running is a good way to make friends. “There is definitely a bond between us,” Souza says of the friends he’s made at running groups. “You meet all different types of people while running.”

 

16th annual Butterfly Run

Hosted by the Coconut Creek Parks and Recreation Department, the run is certified by USA Track & Field. The first 800 participates receive a T-shirt and finisher medal. Children 10-under will receive a participation medal. Partial proceeds will benefit the National Wildlife Federation.

When: Feb. 4, 7 a.m.

Where: Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road

Registration fees: $30 adults; $15 for 17-under; $50 cash day of race (registration 6-6:45 a.m.)

Packet pickup: Recreation Complex (4455 Sol Press Blvd.) on Feb. 2 (2-7 p.m.) and Feb. 3 (12:30-4 p.m.).

Awards: Given to top three in each age division for males and females as well as top three overall male and female finishers, and top male and female Coconut Creek residents.

Info: butterflyrun.com; 954.545.6650