Max Romey & Mount Marathon Race: Alaskan Art, Trailblazing, & Environmental Advocacy

As we approach the renowned Mount Marathon Race, it is only suiting that we interview and feature one of our own FTT artists, Max Romey.

Multimedia Artist | Backwoods Trail Runner | Alaskan Outdoor Enthusiast | Environmental Advocate

Many things can describe Max, but he is all about expanding your horizons and going beyond the surface. He moved to Alaska at the age of 16, and never looked back, embracing the instant community that many find, here in Alaska. But his true joy and calling came from videography and watercolor while pursuing things he finds passion in.

Drawing inspiration from Alaska’s landscape & people

Many may agree with Max here: “without art, the world is less.” Not only is Alaska beautiful, but the communities and people are a great way to draw inspiration. From the villages and fishing communities, to the trademark Xtratuf boots Alaskans don from Fairbanks to Ketchikan (and everywhere in between). A unique closeness in the Alaskan art community serves as a muse for Max as well, stating that it’s not so much a competition but a collective of creatives who seek to lift one another up and encourage pushing the envelope in their endeavors.

Life at 3022ft – knowing Mt. Marathon intimately through film

The Mount Marathon race, for many, is known as an “Alaskan Rite of Passage”. Max lit up as he spoke of household names like Fred Moore, legend of the race origin stemming from a bar bet in Downtown Seward… The rich history of Marathon goes further back than the race. “People have been going up and down that that mountain for 300+ years, painting layers of their lives up there.” Alaskan trails have existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years – and Max Romey’s adventures and art decidedly reflect this.

Max has filmed the race, releasing a feature called 3022ft (you can view it here on Vimeo). During the filming, Max and crew ran the equivalent of 2 times the mountain race (approximately 10-15 kilometers). The goal of the film was trying to capture the human aspect of the Mount Marathon Race, covering the top Men and Women conquering the stone giant. Coverage included the community element of the race (amongst the Seward community and the racers themselves) and shed light on a gender discrepancy: until recently, only the men’s race was broadcast. That year – they were able to capture the closest race in Mount Marathon History!

Challenges to filming the Mount Marathon Race for 3022ft

“Any step on the route could be the pivotal moment for the race”. There were over 17 cameras along the route, and Max’s team relied heavily on community support. From planting videographers along the route, to strapping go-pros to racers, the film subjects were so open and embraced this new way to showcase both a physical and mental challenge that many who haven’t run it couldn’t comprehend.

When asked about what was so special about the Mt. Marathon race, Max responded that it paints a ‘stone soup’ on the ‘giant pile of rocks’ [Marathon] and everyone ‘brings their own flavor’. “Anything can happen on that mountain”. This ignited a new flame within Max; sparking a deeper love of the unique Alaskan geography and a desire to explore and understand the heritage of Alaskan trails.

Though he’s not run the race itself, Max is no stranger to Mount Marathon. Personally, he’s trekked up and down the behemoth 50 to 60 times. Though the race trail is exciting, it is dangerous – there are multiple injuries (sometimes fatalities) each year outside of race day due to people who are unprepared or take a trail that is outside of their physical abilities. In fact, he partnered with the Mount Marathon Race to make this year’s race safety video. Max’s gear recommendations: good shoes (one with grippy treads), gloves (for the devil’s club, rocks, etc), water, wind layer, and gators (to prevent rocks in socks, if possible). His personal additions to each trek are a sketchbook and wide-angle camera. He hopes to try his hand (…feet?) at the race in 2022.

Embracing all trails of Seward

When asked what his favorite spots were, Max remarked that there is so much to explore in Seward. Mt. Marathon is most popular but the lesser-known back side of Marathon is a great way to explore it. His personal favorite on Resurrection Bay is Bear Mountain – nestled beside Marathon. Behind AVTEC, two lakes park and the Marathon Jeep/Bench Trail are also excellent options, while yet another underrated trek across the bay is Mt. Alice.

Watercolor: a fantastic challenge.

Watercolor is a medium that is more about the artist working ‘with’ instead of controlling it to make a composition. Sometimes the fluidity of the paint makes a turn in your process and completely changes the outcome. When asked about why and how he goes about using this medium for landscape, Max said: “Between the landscape and the people, I try to paint the energy and motion of the mountain – trying to capture how colorful and moving these rocks can be.”

“Trails can help you find yourself.”

For Max Romey, Mt. Marathon showed what’s possible on these trails. Since, he’s filmed for Soloman, Black Diamond, Patagonia, and more worldwide, but his passion remains evident in the Alaskan trail history and community. Trails connect Alaska – they’ve been traversed by animals, and indigenous persons for centuries. The world is full of these scattered pathways, connecting homes and communities, and telling stories of time long past.

Alaskan pilgrimage on the Historic Iditarod Trail during a global pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Max took on a new series of projects, combining his love of the backcountry trails and capturing it with his camera and sketchbook. He utilized his art account, @trailboundsketches on Instagram, as well as started @homeboundsketches (“Helping each other through a rough year with weekly themes and daily watercolor prompts”) – to unite artists and consumers alike during an unprecedented time in the world.

“It’d be sad if art didn’t change as we do. Art isn’t an inert, motionless thing. It is constantly changing with the artist – the meaning constantly changes.”

One turning point in Max’s personal and artistic journey was traversing the Historic Iditarod trail from Seward, AK to Nome. The original surveyed mail route between these points measures an approximate 938 miles, and the total mileage for the historic trail system (including side and connecting trails) is approximately 2,300 miles.

Prepared with gear and provisions and armed with his sketchbook and camera, Max set forth on his journey, documenting segments on social media, following a dotted line on a map. Max discovered during this journey that the trails are in danger. Many sections of the Historic Iditarod trail were overgrown and unrecognizable as a trail, as nature worked hard to reclaim it.  

With the ease and development of cars and planes, less and less are using these ancient routes. But he says there’s an unbroken language to them. He hopes that this newfound love of trails with the public will help increase awareness and funding. “There is so much to learn from these trails” lifetimes and more – there are new stones and new layers with each journey. Using his sketchbook unlocked complex thoughts in both his life and these adventures, as it helps Max process the feelings he experiences. It’s a tool to capture and feel, especially how this trail both effected Max himself and how it historically affected (even currently) the remote Alaskan communities. Max aims to release a film about this in the fall.

Learning about Ocean Plastics:  their impact on Alaskan Shores & Beyond


About 5 years ago, Max accompanied a group on Kayak Island with the intention to make a film about the marine debris found on its shores. During and after the trip, he had to take a step back and really process what he’d witnessed. “We hear about the millions of tons [of waste] that end up in the ocean, thousands on Alaskan shores… but when you see it in person it feels too big to take on; something like a never-ending problem without a simple solution.”

Max needed to wait until the right moment to share. This year, Max recently embarked on a trip to Kodiak, and this month Katmai – partnering with both Island Trails Network and Ocean Plastic Recovery organizations. He hopes to make a short film on marine debris and the effect on Alaska, using sketches to capture what words cannot say: “perhaps the only way to capture what words cannot say will be through this imagery”. The weight he felt on Kayak Island about one person being too small to fix the issue can be addressed by one thing: teamwork. He hopes to inspire others to band together and work toward solutions. He aims to collaborate with other artists, using art as a tool to bring awareness and make things much more accessible to the greater public as we work toward nursing our beautiful planet to health.

“Follow what is fun”- Max’s advice for aspiring artists, explorers:
“Well, I can tell you what not to do:
Don’t worry about the final product or perfection.
Follow what is fun. So long as you’re having fun, it counts as art.”
Getting started is scary, but the moments of joy will pull you through. If you find people who encourage you and challenge you to push yourself, then you will find that joy and success.
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We are grateful to carry such incredible work from artists with big hearts and burning passions here at Forests, Tides & Treasures, and consider many of them family. Thank you to Max Romey for interviewing with us and bringing us through his Alaskan journey. It is our goal at FTT to bridge the gap between artist and consumer and embrace the humanity that we all share. After all, we are better together.

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