Running for Butterflies

GÜNTHER SCHUBERT – The second Monarch Ultra (M.U.) relay run was held in the fall of 2021.The Purpose of the run is to raise awareness about the depletion of the Monarch Butterflies and other pollinators.

We have lost up to 80 % of the Monarch Butterfly population in the last 30 years. The western species migrating from British Columbia to California had a 99% decline in recent years, It is just about extinct. Extinct means gone forever. Bees, birds and many other insects are suffering due to human Interference.

Out on a run one day in 2016, Carlotta James, a local Ultra runner and environmentalist noticed the absence of Bees and Butterflies in nature and came up with the idea of running for Butterflies and raising awareness about the issue. She Connected with Cinematographer, Rodney Fuentes and co-designed the Monarch Ultra relay run. Clay Williams, an ultra-runner, joined soon after as the run director and route designer. I joined in the spring of 2019 to drive the motor home and cook for the team.

The first run was held in the fall of 2019, a 4300 km race journey from Peterborough to Macheros, Mexico, one of the overwintering sanctuaries of the Monarch Butterflies. The 7 week journey was a grueling, long and powerful life experience for all the team members. Great connections were made, the message went out to the communities, lessons were learned and the team is still talking to each other.

It was decided to make this a biannual event.

The plan for the 2021 run was to do a shortened version of the first Monarch Ultra, running along trails and country roads, passing through communities and meeting with schools, governments, Rotarians, environmentalists and media to call for action to protect the Monarchs and all other Pollinators.

Due to Covid restrictions we decided to hold the 2021 run within Ontario  –  opportunity to connect with communities in our own province.

Again, our intention was to deliver a message and inform citizens about the threats pollinators face, such as Pesticide use, habitat loss due to monoculture, deforestation and land development, extreme weather and disease.

We urge citizens to plant Pollinator gardens including the life essential Milkweed, speak out about the overuse of pesticides, advocate to government for habitat protection and get citizens involved in local environmental issues.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic we were limited and restricted to meet with schools, city hall officials and environmental groups. However we managed to have good Radio, TV, Newsprint and social media coverage throughout the run.

Our road team for the 3 week run consisted of Carlotta looking after logistics and media coverage, Jodi McNeill an Ultra runner herself was our race director making sure the runners are taken care of, Rob Steinman a Peterborough environmentalist joined the team just days before we left as a driver and photographer. Additionally we had Holly Chailly, blogger and Monarch advocate form the USA and myself, driving the Motorhome and looking after the nutritional needs for the team to stay strong and healthy.

We are incredibly thankful to local businesses, the Peterborough Kawartha and other Rotary clubs, private supporters, friends and families for their financial support to make the 3 week journey possible.

After many months of getting ready, we left Peterborough with great fanfair on Sunday, September 19th at the De-pave site near Millennium park. The Peterborough Kawartha Rotary club co organized food and beverages. Dorothy Taylor, Curve Lake Elder gave us her blessings. While Rotary President Carl Brown and a City councilor Kim Zippel wished us well. Friends and family cheered us on as we headed west towards Uxbridge, our first night on the road at a Rotary home stay.

The route we decided to take was unlike the first run to Mexico where we took the most direct route along busy highways. We chose to run along trails and country Roads.

Starting out along the Trans Canada Trail from Peterborough we navigated through Durham Forrest, along Lake Ontario, the Toronto Waterfront trail, around the Golden Horseshoe, through Niagara peninsula, the North shore of Lake Erie, Point Pelee and a Windsor turnaround. We passed through Chatham, London, Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Midland to end the run at the Barrie City Hall. A warm Covid welcome was organized by City council and the Barrie Rotary club.

For Transportation we rented an RV which became our home, office, kitchen, bedroom, dining and party room. As well we had a small support vehicle for the runners.

As a former Marathon runner I have a good idea about the commitment it takes to run 30 or 50 km. It takes months of training to prepare for the physical and mental challenges only the most dedicated will overcome. About 60 runners from all over Southern Ontario, a few repeats from 2019 participated. Most of them run for the love of running, the personal challenge, perhaps their first 50 km. All of them were running to help raise awareness for the Butterflies. The Runners ages were between 30 and 72 years. Some running slow, some fast. Every 8 to 10 km we met them on route with a refill of water, food, location orientation, safety advice and lots of encouragement. Every day we witnessed their personal battles, breaking physical and mental walls and saw victorious smiles at the finishing line.

At the starting line of the run, every runner read a beautiful poem which was created by Grade 4/5 students and teacher Miriel Hess, one of 2019 runners  in Wisconsin, USA. Enjoy!

Butterfly Connections

Orange and Black with dots of white,
Fluttering wings in the sky
Monarchs, beautiful when they fly,
Without them many plants would die.
Stopping sipping nectar,
Each flower a source of power
Monarchs floating in the wind,
Astonishing migration.
Waystations planted on the way
Each flower a source of power
Monarchs migrate to Mexico,
Super generation on its way!
Carrying spirits of loved ones
Dia de los Muertos
Runners running for a cause,
To each of them we do applaud!
Heroes for the butterfly,
Raise pollinator awareness
Pollinators give us life,
Running feet push for miles!
United together to reach a goal,
Adventures ahead
Connecting souls!
WE got this!!!

We were lucky with many days of sunshine and had only 2 days of intensive rain and a few cloudy days. Along the Trans Canada and Waterfront Trail we had beautiful vistas of farmland, downtown Toronto, vineyards, fruit orchards, windy lakeshores, Windmills, Tobacco fields, giant Greenhouses and endless monoculture of corn and soy. Every time we cheered on a runner in the small town or village we connected with individuals and shared our message.

A new addition this year was the M.U. Virtual run. Race director Jodi McNeill and Carlotta designed this run for anyone in North America to take part. Participants could run, walk or bike 10 km. at their favorite trail at any time. Through registrations and sponsorship from friends and families, we were delighted to raise just under $ 11000.00 for Camp Kawartha to support their environmental youth education program.

After holding 2 very different Monarch Ultra campaigns, the team has learned many lessons and is currently developing a new concept for the 2023 run. The plan is to hold one Monarch Ultra run in Canada, the USA and Mexico. Currently we are working with partners here in Peterborough, the US and Mexico to organize a 2 day event of running and festivities in their community. More details will follow as we progress with the planning.

On a final note, The M.U. team is a small group of individuals trying to inform citizens about the alarming state of the Butterfly and Pollinator population. We are calling on everyone to get involved and protects our environment however they can. Plant Milkweed, Flowers with nectar, speak out about pesticides and urban sprawl.