AN encounter with Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin nearly 20 years ago was the inspiration for a Victoria Point ultra runner, who will tackle a 100 kilometre run next month, planting as many trees along the way.
Kieron Douglass will run the distance in 10km loops in Scribbly Gum Conservation Park at Alexandra Hills next month, planting one tree per kilometre.
Douglass said he had become interested in conservation aged 12, while watching a television show hosted by the late Irwin.
"(He) became my hero, not just for all the crazy things he was doing wrangling snakes and jumping on crocodiles, but for the pure passion he oozed for not just the animals and conservation but for his family," Douglass said.
Five years later, at 17, Douglass visited Australia Zoo, where he met the Crocodile Hunter in person.
"I had bought this giant talking Steve Irwin doll... you would press his stomach and Steve would yell 'Geez, have a look at this little beauty'," he said.
"Just ahead of me I could see Steve walking up the concrete path towards the (crocodile) enclosure.
"I gave him a blue dodgy biro pen to sign the back of the doll.
"As he attempted to sign it, the pen wouldn't work.
"He said '...find a good pen and come see me after the show'."
Douglass said Irwin later took him aside from the crowd and signed the doll.
"I told him how incredibly inspired I was and how I had hoped to one day contribute to the work he was doing in conservation," he said.
"He said 'Mate, I couldn't thank you enough for your support. We have a tough job ahead of us but it's people like you that help make it easier'.
"I don't think I ever came down from the cloud I was on."
Nearly 20 years after the encounter, during COVID-19 lockdown, Douglass came across a video by Australian filmmaker and speaker Beau Miles, where he ran one mile an hour for 24 hours, and in between completed a number of tasks, including planting trees around his neighbourhood.
"It automatically sprung to me (that this was) what I (was) going to do," he said.
"This will be my way of contributing to Steve's Irwin's conservation work.
"I spend so much of my life running on these beautiful trails. It was time to give back and it was time to do what I had told Steve I would do."
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