EXERCISE is good for you – we all know that – but it turns out in Carlisle, it’s good for all sorts of things, thanks to Vanessa Strickland.

Vanessa is the driving force – along with a team of volunteers – behind a number of regular events in Carlisle.

There’s not only the Junior parkrun, and Runmums, there’s also the upcoming Mother’s Day 5k, which is being held in Carlisle for the third consecutive year in March.

And while the physical and mental benefits for those taking part are undeniable, Vanessa revealed this week that the events have raised thousands of pounds for good causes in the region.

“In the last 18 months we have raised over £10,000 for charities. Eden Valley Hospice is one, and we also supported the Teenage Cancer Trust,” said mum-of-four Vanessa.

“When we set up Runmums we wanted to do an event. We put it out to the group as to what charity we wanted to support. Eden Valley came up because there was a lot of people who had been affected by cancer... husbands or parents, brothers or sisters.”

And some volunteers are able to use their time helping organise the events as part of their qualification towards Duke of Edinburgh badges.

Vanessa has always been into running, and is very much an outdoors person. Born and brought up in Egremont, she attended the town’s Wyndham School, and has a county championship badge from 1983 while a student there.

She has completed the London Marathon eight times, the Great North Run 12 times, and the Windermere and Coniston marathons, as well as taking part in numerous other events.

Four years ago she began to organise events in Carlisle – not with a competitive aim, but to help everyone, young and old, enjoy the outdoors and the advantages exercise brings.

“I started Runmums first, but it wasn’t just for mums, it was for females, but we thought Runmums was a nice name for it. Some women feel more comfortable running together,” said Vanessa.

“At the first one I was quite overwhelmed about how many people turned up. It isn’t a competitive club, it is a club that allows women to get together and run and enjoy running for what it is.

“Because it is not an affiliated running club we just enjoy it for what it is. It is therapy and social – it puts you in a better mood, there are physical and mental benefits. You make new friends, since starting it the amount of new friends I have is amazing.”

After the initial success of Runmums four years ago, the recently turned 50 mum then started a new project to involve the younger generations.

“On the back of Runmums I started Junior Parkrun because I wanted to do something more for the families. There is more tech out there and that is what kids do to play, so getting them out and doing the Park Run is giving them an opportunity. It is good for their mental health, and good for them physically,” she said.

The oldest participants in any of Vanessa’s events have been her 84-year-old parents, Eileen and Freddy Maginnis, while the youngest are babies in prams being pushed by parents.

And Vanessa revealed that her niece, Joanna Spedding, who has been mostly confined to a wheelchair after an accident 12 years ago, has taken part, pushing her wheelchair around the course over two days.

Runmums meets on Monday mornings and evenings, and on Wednesday and Friday evenings, with venues including The Sheepmount, Devonshire Walk and the Sands Centre in Carlisle.

The junior park run meets on a Saturday morning for a 2km run in Bitts Park, starting at 9am, and is for four to 14-year-olds. Only the entrants are timed, but parents and siblings are encouraged to run too.

“It is all run by volunteers. We have got a really committed team of volunteers who are absolutely amazing. So far since we started we have had nearly 1,300 registered.

“It is amazing. You turn up in a morning and set up. Bitts Park is just so quiet. At 8.50am you hardly see anyone, and then all of a sudden there is this flurry of people turn up.

The Mother’s Day 5k is on Sunday, March 22. All the profits go to the Eden Valley Hospice.

Anyone who raises £25 in sponsorship for the Eden Valley Hospice will see their entry fee refunded. There are a number of sponsors for the event, including United Utilities, Karen Robertson of Baby and Toddler Swimmers in Carlisle, West Cumberland Farmers, the Cumberland Building Society and Carlisle City Council.

“I enjoy being outdoors. That is the beauty that you are able to exercise and exercise outside. The benefits of that, physically and mentally, are amazing. I am definitely an outdoors person. It picks up your mood,” said Vanessa.

“I don’t suffer from depression and anxiety but other people who do say it helps them,” said Vanessa, a Fire Service national resilience and fitness adviser.

Go to www.runmums.com/mothersday5k for more information.