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Training Arms for Longest Run

February 27, 1986|GORDON MONSON

Bruce Van Hoorn says he was something of an athlete before he was paralyzed from the ribs down in an accident three years ago. Today, he's training to compete in marathons.

Van Hoorn, then 22, was in Hawaii when a four-wheel-drive vehicle in which he was riding rolled over, pinning him underneath. Shortly after the accident, Van Hoorn was moved to the Northridge Hospital Medical Center for treatment and rehabilitation.

While in rehabilitation, he joined the hospital's track team, part of a recreational therapy program for wheelchair athletes.

Van Hoorn, a Woodland Hills resident, and four of his teammates are training for the L.A. Marathon on March 9.

"We train at least every other day," Van Hoorn said. "Some days we go 40 miles, other days we go 10.

"It's not as hard as running. Your body doesn't take the abuse that runners take. We do get muscle pulls. Sometimes you rip out your elbows or shoulders, but if you build yourself up, you can avoid that.

"The team gives you a lot of support, and the hospital sponsors our trips so we can compete."

Ingrid Cleffi-Hayes started the wheelchair sports program at the hospital five years ago after one of her patients asked if he could try golf.

Cleffi-Hayes found a local golf course that would allow her patients on the course. Before long, she was coordinating recreational therapy in tennis, golf, basketball and track.

"We now have 33 participants in the sports," she said. "We're the only rehab program that sponsors such a variety of sports."

Three of the program's track team members, including Van Hoorn, have qualified to compete in the Boston Marathon, according to Cleffi-Hayes. The other two are Todd Slowey of Canoga Park and Ray Stewart of Downey.

"A lot of them were athletes before," Cleffi-Hayes said. "This just allows them to continue to compete. It helps them get back into the mainstream of life. It makes their lives complete."

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