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The cover of the spring/summer 2004 Issue of SFSU Magazine


SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer  2004, Volume 4, Number 1.

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  Alumni & FriendsAlumnus Peter Fain running through the snow in a pair of snowshoes. 'Contrary to popular belief, running is fun and that's why I do it', says snowshoe champ Peter Fain. copyright 2004 Jamie Kripke for Atlas Snowshow Co.


Dashing Through the Snow

When asked what it means to be a member of the U.S. National Snowshoeing Team, alumnus Peter Fain laughs. "Aside from bragging rights, not much," he says. At least not yet.

As western region representative for his team, Fain is on a mission to increase the sport's popularity and encourage other countries to form their own teams. A sport needs at least 14 countries with national teams to be considered by the International Olympic Committee.

Practiced primarily by restless runners who want a chance to train during the snowy winter months, the competitive version of snowshoeing more closely resembles long distance trail running than it does the slow, meandering hikes most of us associate with snowshoes. It's only for the super-athlete, the kind of person who enjoys running marathons.

Fain has always been that kind of person. He ran track in high school in the San Fernando Valley, and although he won most of the time, he wasn't quite fast enough to earn an athletic scholarship. He decided to postpone college and join the Army. After two years as a sharpshooter and a summer spent clearing minefields in the Kuwaiti desert, he'd had enough. He got his discharge, grew out his buzz cut and enrolled in SFSU's cinema program, attending classes from 1995-'98.

In the classroom, he discovered his creative talents (the snowshoe champ is also a skilled stone mason and accomplished painter). On the track, working with SFSU coach Matt Lydum, Fain became the Northern California Athletic Conference 800-meter champion three years in a row and began to dream of Olympic glory.

He lacked the speed of an Olympic runner, but he knew he had the stamina to take on another athletic challenge.

After toying with the idea of competing in the winter biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing ("How hard could it be?") and shooting (which he learned in the military), the financially strapped Fain decided on snowshoeing when Atlas, a local snowshoe manufacturer, offered him a free pair of shoes.

Fain made the national team in 2003 after being knocked down at the starting line and running the entire 10 kilometer race with a broken shoe. In March, he came in fifth at the national championship race in Squaw Valley.

At 33, Fain now declares his own Olympic dream over but still considers himself "an awesome delegate for the sport." With a mean uphill stride, it's hard to disagree.


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