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Montreal runner completes 4,500-km trek to Mexico along monarch butterfly migration path

Anthony Battah set out on his cross-continental journey July 29 bring attention to the threats facing North America's monarch population

Monarch butterlies in Mexico

After three months of meeting fierce challenges and even fiercer supporters while running in three countries, Anthony Battah on Wednesday completed his 4,500-kilometre trek from his hometown of Montreal to central Mexico, a journey mapped out along the migratory path of the monarch butterfly that helped bring attention to the endangered pollinators’ plight.

Battah, a 39-year-old ultrarunner and a lawyer by trade, is celebrating the end of his journey in Mexico’s Michoacán region, home to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve where the insects spend the winter after migrating from Canada along the eastern United States.

Setting out from Montreal’s Insectarium on July 29, Battah covered an average of 50 km a day to successfully reach his goal of arriving at his planned destination by Nov. 1. He was supported in his effort—which he dubbed the Ultra-Trail Monarch (UTM) project—by his wife, Nancy Lapointe, and their daughter Laurance, who followed Battah in an RV.

Safely meeting his mileage target and destination meant the family had to revise the route of the Mexico portion of his run, however. In an Instagram post from St. Antonio, near the Mexican border, on Oct. 14, Battah wrote that, in recent weeks, he and his wife had “been waved too many red flags. Our initial plan to run from the US-Mexican border to Michoacán is currently too risky for our family’s safety. These warnings are coming from all sides, most notably from people & organizations in or closely related to Mexico.

“With regret, and immense respect for the Mexican people, we have cooked up a plan B that will allow us to accomplish our objective: run crazy distances, in all 3 North American countries, in order to attract attention and in turn raise awareness to the importance of protecting our planet and its biodiversity,” he added.

“Plan B” saw the family fly to Mexico City, where Battah continued to run daily ultra distances for two weeks before making the final four-day push into the Michoacán region.

In addition to receiving warm welcomes from local well-wishers in the final kilometres of his journey, Battah also received fierce support from local law enforcment during the run’s home stretch. On the eve of his finish, Battah posted a video on Instagram showing two armed officers running alongside him, and police vehicle escorts clearing their way.

“I was expecting some assistance, but this is next level,” he wrote. “The communities are so generous, making sure the UTM finishes on a high note! Muchas Gracias.” Chimed one commenter: “They take the protection of monarchs in Mexico seriously!”

During his 96-day run , Battah planted milkweed and flowers rich in nectar to create “aid stations” for future generations of monarch butterflies, and encouraged supporters to do the same. Through the Ultra-Trail Monarch project, he hopes to raise $4.5 million—or $1 per metre he ran—to “help serious organizations dedicated to protecting the monarch and biodiversity.”

Montreal runner following 4,500-km monarch butterfly migration path to Mexico

“I want us to do something significant to protect biodiversity and the environment,” Battah told the Montreal Gazette before beginning his journey. “If I’m capable of running 4,500 kilometres to reach the centre of Mexico, surely everyone has the capacity to join forces and do a little bit more.”

The monarch butterfly is now classified as an endangered species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. According to The Nature Conservancy, the insect is an important pollinator that plays a vital role in the health of many ecosystems across North America.





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