This is a story about running, butterflies, people, places, the survival of pollinators, and yes, humanity.

GÜNTHER SCHUBERT – Back in 2016, Carlotta James, an ultra marathon runner, a forward thinking and passionate mother kept noticing a huge decline of butterflies and bees in the environment while out running our beautiful Kawartha trails. 

Her calling was to raise awareness about the decline of pollinators, caused through habitat loss, pesticides use and climate change. Bringing running and butterflies together, she came up with the idea of a relay run from Peterborough, Ontario to the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico where the Monarch butterflies overwinter. A team of a map expert, Clay Williams, an ultra runner himself, a moviemaker, Rodney Fuentes, and Carlotta, the driver of this project, worked endless hours to get ready. 

After 2 years of fundraising, mapping the route, planning receptions, contacting environmental groups, schools and media, arranging home stays and signing up runners, a team of 4 individuals left Peterborough, Ontario on Thursday, September 19th.

The Peterborough Kawartha Rotary Club, one of the main sponsors for this first time project had organized a wonderful send off with the community, seeing us depart in our 31 year old RV, also known as EI Dorado, meaning wings. EI Dorado quickly became our home and busy Monarch Ultra central. Unfortunately, EI Dorado was not always flying. 

Different runners from places all over Canada, USA and Mexico ran either 50 or 100 km (31 or 62 miles) per day. The runners were following the flight path of the Monarch butterflies through southern Ontario crossing over into the USA near Detroit through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and six Mexican states to reach the Cerro Pelón Mountains in the state of Mexico. 

The Monarch Ultra support team met the runners at daybreak at a prearranged location and sent them on their way. Throughout the day, every 10 km, we met the runners and provided drinks, food and moral support. Every runner was unique, overcoming their own hurdles and walls as they ran these long distances in sometimes busy, crowded, hot and even dangerous conditions. At the end of a run, exhaustion, pain and fatigue was always overcome by a sense of completion and the participation in this important project. 

Some of the most gratifying and promising contacts we made on our journey were with students. Whether it was a grade 1 and 2 class at the American School Foundation in Monterrey, a high school in Arkansas and San Luis Potosi, students in Toronto, or the kids up in Macheros, where the butterflies overwinter, the enthusiasm for butterflies and nature was always present. 

Our message and calls for awareness were well received and we had to promise a return at our next Monarch Ultra in 2021. Although we started this journey off with butterflies and running in mind, it soon became much more. Through connecting with like-minded people across 3 countries, we realize the possibilities of this grassroots idea. It is to reach many with the simple message: to take care of nature and all of the living creatures on Earth. 

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